ANOTHER GOOD LOOKING CITY
This city invites comparison with Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington and Sydney, all of which it approximates in size. Its landmarks are fairly familiar, so I have omitted them. The city looks good almost everywhere in its built-up area.
Buildings date from various eras; the city has a layered look:
Some parts have a real big-city feel, in the Haussmann mold, entirely without skyscrapers:
Other parts are smaller-scaled, placid havens, like some parts of Greenwich Village or Hampstead:
This city never had parking lots, and probably never will. Therefore it is not gap-toothed, and the spatial experience is coherent and intentional throughout.
The quality of the building stock is generally pretty high because it is old, and the Modernists didn’t mess up too much of it. A lot of it is Beaux-Arts:
The Opera House looks the part:
Post Modern buildings are whatever they are anywhere:
Center-city shopping mall
Artists abound, and they are held in high regard. One artist dreamed up this building’s cornice. You can imagine what it does when the sun shines:
A hovering installation in a museum:
The city is well stocked with churches:
Other monuments include one that Mad King Ludwig would have liked, along with Walt Disney:
And baroque extravaganzas filled with cobbles and inscriptions:
At the edge of the city proper, there is a large park with a nice lake. The park contains monumental buildings: four museums, an aquatic center, a circus, a small amusement park, and other public facilities:
Not exactly Central Park, this is more like the Bois de Boulogne or Golden Gate Park in its location near the edge of the center city. Like Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, a grand Beaux-Arts boulevard leads to the park’s gateway, a vast square fronted by (of course) a Greek temple (actually, two):
In the photo above the approach from the center of town is from the lower right via a ritzy boulevard. The district through which it passes consists of detached buildings on small lots. If you look closely at them they look like mansions, in the same fanciful variety of styles that you will find in Washington on Massachusetts Avenue out from Dupont Circle. Mansions they were, but as in Washington, they were converted to institutional and multi-family use. More recently, a new wave of plutocrats has started reconverting them to single-family use.
Here is the view looking back towards town:
The extravagant aquatic center takes opulence to a new plateau. The Romans would be envious. Behind it lurks a round structure that houses a permanent circus. Obviously the swimmers arrive by subway:
Stadiums and arenas galore:
Where are the parking lots?
Some areas of the city center are pedestrianized:
If you want to move a little faster, try one of the circumferential boulevards, like growth rings:
There are three principal train stations. A famous bridge engineer designed this one. He also devised the structure for the Statue of Liberty and a famous tower in Paris. The building is amazingly glassy, an exercise in minimalist engineering:
Arriving passengers can transfer here to streetcar or subway:
The transportation system is outstandingly efficient and dirt cheap, so everyone uses it. Streetcars are the most visible component:
In San Francisco, buses are either articulated or electric. Here they are articulated and electric:
Newer subway lines are deep-bore. Really deep. The upshot is amazingly fast escalators. Step lively:
The newer subway lines are clean, fast, efficient and soulless. Rush hour headway is 50 seconds, same as Paris, but the trains are faster.
There is an old subway line that dates waaay back to 1896, a year before Boston’s ancient Tremont Street Subway. The trains are tiny and the riveted, column-filled cut-and-cover stations are reminiscent of New York’s, but in miniature. The trains are charmingly leisurely, make all the right sounds, and the stations are nicely close-spaced. Unlike New York’s, they are also clean:
Suburban rail lines really function as city transit, like Sydney’s. They often run at intervals of less than ten minutes, and don’t always have a separated right-of-way. They seem a little like elongated light rail, like the Docklands line in London. They fan out to suburban bedroom communities and absorbed towns, including one that is popular with artists, and consequently tourists. Comparable places include Burano, Sausalito, Grinzing, Marblehead, and perhaps Alexandria, Va.:
Another station with an amazingly gossamer structure. I wonder if you could get away with so little structure under today’s code:
Parts of this city are hilly. As in Montmartre, steps and funiculars yield access to quiet residential districts with sweeping vistas and in some places, hordes of tourists. This is a city of Belvederes:
Later I will post some of those vistas.
Meanwhile, here is a rooftop view. The small increment of development yields an intimate scale:
Shopping is done mostly at street level with sidewalk access. Centers of shopping include covered markets, malls and public squares.
The Central Market will remind some of Seattle’s Pike Place and Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market or Philadelphia’s Reading Market and even San Francisco’s Ferry Building Market. It isn’t really a food court; many people shop there for the things you might buy in a supermarket. The selection is dazzling, and it’s a great place to hang out and watch people, like Washington’s Eastern Market, but much bigger:
Shopping malls are pretty much the same everywhere, city and suburb alike:
Ad hoc markets appear periodically all over town:
Households were large when these houses were built, consisting of an extended family, servants, employees and hangers-on:
The houses are built around courtyards accessible by carriage through big archways (note the curb cuts):
Commerce occupied many ground floors, then as now. I wonder if this restaurant’s owner lives above his establishment:
Perched atop its hill, this town was absorbed into the larger city:
A gatehouse and some sections of wall survive. The road is obviously a modern contribution. In olden times you passed through the archway so the security guys could take a good look at you:
A bosky island bifurcates the river:
On it sits the resort-like Grand Hotel:
About Boston’s size, this city’s population is differently distributed. City limit population is about 3-1/2 times Boston’s, but its metropolitan population is about half of Boston’s. Almost everyone in its conurbation lives inside the city limits. This means:
1. It has not much in the way of suburbs and does not sprawl. City limit area is a bit over 200 square miles to Boston’s 48, while metropolitan area is about 400 square miles to Greater Boston’s roughly two thousand.
2. The built-up urban center of this city is much bigger than Boston’s, and almost everyone lives in it. To a casual observer it seems a bigger city though it lacks skyscrapers.
As in San Francisco, you can cross a suspension bridge and find a reasonable approximation of nature. The city’s density is obvious. Not a high-rise or parking lot to be seen.
As in Paris and Rome, many buildings are built around courtyards, the city’s nostrils.
An old military installation guarded the city’s approach, as in San Francisco:
Many of you can positively identify this city from a personal visit or pictures. If you are one of those people, please leave identification to someone’s educated guess.