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Thread: Boring cities: what makes them so?

  1. #26
    Cyburbian jswanek's avatar
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    I assume we're talking about SAFE cities when we want them not to be boring. I find physical layout important. If there is no place for an individual to safely get away from the crowd and "hide" while outdoors, that place is boring. Alleys, micro-parks, gazebo-type shelters, open side and rear commercial yards, old buildings with empty floors, etc., make things interesting...SAFE then depends on the age structure of the community, the national and local economy, and other factors.

    I find the newer parts of Las Vegas to be intensely boring by this standard, where you have to get to your room to ever be alone.

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  2. #27
    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    I agree that young people (20-35) make a city more vibrant, or can, but then the problem becomes the inability to get these people to show up in the city in the first place. And I agree that urban planning as entertainment is something that is going to happen, seeing as cities would love to have those people and want to draw them in. Bloomberg talked about this in a press release, saying that to attract and keep young people the city needed the best nightclubs or something. I think that nightlife and vibrancy attracts more nightlife and vibrancy, so a city probably needs a little spark or nucleus to start it off and attract the first adventurers.

  3. #28
    Cyburbian
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    Context is also important; T5 and T6 design cues may help people approach and understand a "boring" city in a different way.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    "In Soviet Russia, cities find PEOPLE boring!" [/Yakov Smirnoff]

    A lot of good points have been hit upon, but I would add a few:

    1. Diversity of architecture, presence of public art, intersting streetscape, etc.
    2. Interesting public spaces (or private gathering spaces like local hangouts, etc.)
    3. Visible street activity (are there sidewalk cafes? business with window displays? people walking around?)
    4. A sense of history
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  5. #30
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I think a major factor is whether or not there is a large(r) city nearby. I've heard too many times people say that my former college town DeKalb was boring, and these were college students, and they would go home on the weekends. It was a suitcase/commuter school. Well of course, you'll find it boring if you have a world class city, Chicago, an hour away.

    But is a Midwestern college town like DeKalb really that boring? Not at all. Restaurants serving food all night long, bars open til 2 at least, weekdays like Thursday being real happening times, college athletics & tailgating, live music from the bars to the Convo Center, tons of clubs/organizations, frats/sororities, house parties on any given day of the week, historical museums, theaters, an active political scene, and a gritty but somewhat lively downtown.

    But people find the glitz and glamor of Chicago more exciting, or they love the dance clubs and pretentious nature associated with the city. Some people just love techno, grinding, dressing up, and paying $50 every time you go out. Whatever. I'd rather get blitzed for less than $20 and wear whatever I was wearing that day and chill with my friends and enjoy some real music.

    So if you are within reasonable access to a world class city like L.A., Chicago, or New York, I'm sure that plays a significant role in people's perceptions.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  6. #31
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Boredom is a problem on the part of the subjective viewpoint, not of the objective environment.

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    What do you think of the following as indicators of a boring city? Having one or two of these indicators may not make a city boring, but when they start to add up, it's a formula for boredom.

    Things planners might not be able to change.

    * Lack of outdoors recreational opportunities. No nearby hills, mountains, and/or large bodies of water.

    * Lack of demographic and cultural diversity. As per the example of TexanOkie; the population is skewed too much towards one subculture or demographic group, alienating those that aren't part of that group. Examples: Austin, Salt Lake City, El Paso, places that self-identify as a "good family town".

    * Lack of a "scene" or any contemporary alternative cultural presence. Basically, the polar opposite of an Austin or San Francisco.

    * Lack of colleges and universities.

    * Lack of quality museums, theaters, cultural institutions, and the like. Even if one seldom visits a museum or attends a play, cultural resources still color how one may feel about a city or region.

    * Lack of activities or diversions that can be enjoyed for free.

    * Lack of young singles.

    * Overwhelming social conservativism. See Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Grand Rapids, Greenville, or Jackson.


    Things planners might be able to change.

    * Lack of nightlife or a district where people gather a night. Nightlife does not equal bars or clubs alone.

    * Lack of moderately active pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods or districts, or "third places".

    * Homogeneous built environment. The region experienced some boom where the bulk of buildings were built in a 10 or 20 year spam.

    * Homogeneous business environment. Chains dominate the restaurant scene, even outside of newer suburban areas.
    The best post on this thread. One thing I would add is lack of transplants. Cities where few people have moved there from other places tend to be on the boring side.

    All these points sound a lot like Oklahoma City, where I currently live and no matter how much I try to like it, I still find it to be on the boring side considering the size of the city. Of course there are places much more boring than OKC out there but few of them have a metro area population of 1.3 million people I am certain. Here in OKC, there is no natural recreation, the city population is heavily skewed towards young families, there is a growing but still very small (considering the size of the city) alternative cultural presence, and the place has a very socially conservative atmosphere. I envy those who are married suburban homeowners with children because this is actually a pretty nice place for that lifestyle.

    The last four things you mentioned are things the city is working on changing, but the city was going in the wrong direction for so long it can't be changed overnight.

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