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Yet Another Good Looking City

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
Points
20
YET ANOTHER GOOD LOOKING CITY


Aw, they’re all the same, these good-looking cities. Seen one, you’ve seen them all. Why, they’re all made out of the same ingredients. [What’s the matter; can’t they break out and do something really original?]

They seem to have boulevards, for example, with unbroken street walls of more-or-less same-height buildings. They don’t seem to mind big signs:

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The power of the cornice.


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Even when the buildings break out skyward, they hold the street line, so you don’t get a raggedy edge to the street canyon or nifty plazas full of homeless people:

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At street level, they have shops, so you don’t get bored walking and hop in your car. If you did that, they would have to provide you with parking lots. These people are walking because they don’t have anywhere to park. They may not even be shoppers:

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Good-looking cities all seem to have little old survivors from bygone days, taking up valuable land that could be more intensively developed:

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In the French Quarter they would put in a strip club.

They still have anachronisms like multi-story department stores. Haven’t they heard of volume buying and big box retailing, all on one level? Why, you can’t wheel a shopping cart around a place like that; how do they expect to sell a lot of goods? And if you do buy a bunch of stuff, how do you haul it home? Changes needed here.

They could start by tearing down the surrounding buildings for convenient parking:

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Shades of Harrod’s.
And did you notice the taxis are all the same color?


The side streets are just like the boulevards, only narrower. No original thinking here. Didn’t the market study tell them there weren’t enough people to support a rip-snorting retail trade? And where was the planning department to helpfully zone out the retail, like a good uncle?

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If they ran the utility lines overhead, they wouldn’t have to dig up the street so much.


Street-level retail of a different sort, blocking the sidewalk:

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Ah, a mall. They seem to have made this one by roofing over a narrow street:

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This is simply over the top. Will they ever get a return on those murals?

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Where are the handrail extensions on that stair at left?

Subway’s nice and clean. Platforms aren’t very high. The trains must have small wheels.

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And as in all good-looking cities, one of the lines literally creaks with antiquity. The wooden carriages hail from the Twenties:

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All good-looking cities seem to have converted their formerly gritty waterfronts to recreational or residential use. Some people miss those funky fish heads:

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The fat, stepped glass building is by Cesar Pelli of Petronas fame.

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Like every good-looking city, it seems, this one has a nice bridge, cable-stayed and Calatravesque:

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They started building skyscrapers way back…

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…although some of them didn’t get too far off the ground:

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(Oh, this one is a mall!, just built. Sorry about that.)

They have been at it ever since, though this is not long enough to transform the character of good-looking cities, which remain resolutely pre-modernist. There are no good-looking cities based on orthodox modernist theories of city building. There aren’t even any that work well as cities:

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Now this building is seriously pink.

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It seems that good-looking cities are those whose present character was established before World War I. This is what separates New York from Los Angeles, Boston from Phoenix.

As they expand outward over time, these good-looking places all seem to peter out into outskirts where they seem to forget how cities are made. The result is abrupt juxtaposition of incompatible scales, in which point blocks are grafted onto diminutive pre-existing edge-city urban fabric that the French call banlieu or faubourg (false city). Where are the NIMBYs when they are needed?

Here, Corbu is king. In place of streets there are plazas and “open space”. The new buildings are often even taller than in the inner city with its regulated building volumes—so the population density is high—but the street level experience is not really urban and there is not much street life. The people are there, they just don’t go out much. When they do, they get in their cars, conveniently stashed in the basement. They are living in the suburbs, you see; don’t let the high-rises fool you. Think Arlington, Va. Or think Charles River Park.

This gives you the benefits of, let’s see, peace and quiet, green space and your car a short elevator ride outside your door, a swimming pool, a prestige address, a doorman to keep out the riff-raff, freedom from street crime --since there is no street in the traditional sense, and no one goes there anyway.

There are few distractions to keep you from watching television.

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Suburban living at city population density.

To counterbalance this, also on the edge, there is the usual bohemian district, full of artists and artistes. Naturally, the buildings here are brightly colored:

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What is different about this city is that it comes right out to the beach:

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Also, one of its airports has a single runway where the big downtown park meets the water:

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You can see that this is a pretty big city.

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The center-city cemetery is like an eighth-scale city.

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Where are the parking lots?

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Satellite photos:

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Yet another good looking city.

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Bah! Bring on the grit. Bring on the abandoned buildings. Bring on the parking lots. Who needs good-looking cities when we can have urban junkyards? What’s wrong with Detroit?
 

ChevyChaseDC

Cyburbian
Messages
190
Points
7
ablarc said:
The people are there, they just don’t go out much. When they do, they get in their cars, conveniently stashed in the basement. They are living in the suburbs, you see; don’t let the high-rises fool you. Think Arlington, Va. Or think Charles River Park.

Buenos Aires, Argentina. That enormous boulevard with the obelisk gives it away (not sure what it's called..)

On another note, lay off Arlington, Virginia. Sure, its Crystal City and Pentagon City sections leave something to be desired, but the Rosslyn - Balston corridor along the Orange line of the Metro is a rare, and textbook example of how to add significant pedestrian-scale and transit-oriented development to a previously automobile-oriented suburb.
 

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
Points
20
Buenos Aires

Avenida 9 de julio, reputed to be the world's widest street. It sure beats the Champs Elysees in width. Count the lanes of traffic, not forgetting the peripheral carriageways and parking lanes.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,846
Points
24
From the pics it appears to be absolutely a great city. The bohemian district colors are super cool! I made the one of the 2 windows my wallpaper; I love contrasts of primary colors. I know a little about this city from people from there who I know here (or met elsewhere) and this city is very high on my list of places to go, has been for a while now. I suspect to get there soon. :)
 

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
Points
20
Wallpaper

H said:
From the pics it appears to be absolutely a great city. The bohemian district colors are super cool! I made the one of the 2 windows my wallpaper

That's funny, I did the same thing.
 

bocian

Cyburbian
Messages
212
Points
9
Ablarc, your posts are great, but they always make me feel so sad about the way American cities look like and the sorry state of the planning profession in the US (what a joke!!! Still maintaining the status-quo, still patronizing the wealthy) compared to cities in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Is America EVER going to accept urban life and "normal-looking and functioning- cities"? Why is it such a struggle here for people to even consider mixed-use development, pedestrian-scale districts, truly dense and urban-quality streetscapes? Is there any hope? Have we lost our humane qualities and consciousness for real? Or it's simply not relevant, since everyone watches tv 12 hours daily? What the hell is going on? I demand an explanation.. I need some demystification on what's going on..

hope hope hope not...
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,846
Points
24
ablarc said:
That's funny, I did the same thing.

And to think at one time I thought we would never see eye to eye :)

Don’t get me wrong; I have always enjoyed your posts just not always held the same opinions about the cities. Well, anyway…

To cities and places, however great they may be, or not :b:
 
Messages
4
Points
0
what's Going On?

In response to...Why is it such a struggle here for people to even consider mixed-use development, pedestrian-scale districts, truly dense and urban-quality streetscapes? Is there any hope? Have we lost our humane qualities and consciousness for real? Or it's simply not relevant, since everyone watches tv 12 hours daily? What the hell is going on? I demand an explanation.. I need some demystification on what's going on.
.
The problem is that planners and architects don't have the initial input if any. The developers figure out what's the money making plan and the planners and architects have to march to the developers orders. It's all screwed up!
 
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