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Book: The death and life of great american cities

tags
Planning
  • The author claims that urban planning, with an eye on aesthetics, is destroying great cities.

  • That there’s something that urban planners miss. Something about the city that isn’t thought about when planning and probably can’t be captured.

  • In organically growing cities, streets are often safe as there are always people constantly using the streets as well as people constantly watching.

  • Humans thronging streets pulls many other people to watch them.

    • This leads to street safety as the streets are constantly watched with promise of intervention.
    • Kids who play on the street are under the watchful attention of other people.
      • Kids who play in designated play areas are often bullied.
    • It takes many people to integrate children into civic life.
      • Thus turning the watchful public away is wasteful
      • Kids learn through observing other adults and this can’t be easily taught.
  • Furthermore, the life that these rich streets create can be amazing as people build trust over time and take up roles in this street society.

    • One example I found interesting was the store keeper who functions in many roles (advice, neighborhood news, security, helping hand etc).
  • Another interesting topic was privacy. Humans can only be social if they’re ensured basic privacy.

    • This often happens in public streets where people have the option of choosing to come to a public space.
    • Thus people are free to interact without knowing any details about anyone’s personal life.
    • In carefully planned societies on the other hand, often they’re not public but merely shared private spaces.
    • Thus people feel the intrusion and do not want to give up more of their privacy.
    • This leads them to maintain distance with other people they meet in the shared private space.
  • The parks which are most lively are those which have diverse groups at the edges ensuring constant thoroughfare at all hours

    • Liveliness generates liveliness
  • Streets and People low in power need political leverage to save themselves from the effects of policy.

  • City districts can form organically, bottom-up through political activism and co-operation with other streets.

    • They should be knit together closely from continuous lively streets
    • Large enough to affect power, small enough for individual streets to matter
  • People can form connections across the city. Some people will have vastly more connections than others.

    • This often drives change and political negotiations
    • Thought: It seems time is an essential ingredient in getting human connections to form across streets and districts
  • Cities are an engine of diversity in both people and entreprises

  • With urbanization, the big entreprises get bigger but the small get more numerous (i.e. an increasing share of the population)

    • Similar to how wealth inequality in society oeprates
    • Also similar to how the number of species increase in as the area of a contiguous land mass increases.
    • All properties of a Pareto distribution.
    • This long tail of city enterprises need diversity.
  • A city’s vitality depends on continuous use.

    • This requires facilities that cause people to come out multiple times a day.
    • Essentialy this creates a feedback loop.
    • Thus city facilities will be in better use throughout a day increasing their utilization.
  • Primary-use attractions (Ex: Residential areas, office spaces, cultural hotspots etc) draw enough people to incentivise secondary use ventures.

    • This multi-use causes continuous use of a city and attracts more people creating a feedback loop.
    • These secondary enterprises increase diversity and need more than a threshold of customers to survive.
  • City blocks should be small with frequent turns.

    • This allows free mixing of people across blocks increasing liveliness.
    • Avoids pools of economic development mixing them into a greater whole.