Over at Fast Company’s Co.Design is an interesting dialog about how important it is for cities to figure out what their fundamental goals are. While this sounds basic, governments, planning agencies, and citizens can get too wrapped up in individual difficult issues; without having big-picture guideposts, solutions to these issues can be disconnected or even harmful. The article is a discussion between a city planner in Gainesville, FL and an urban designer from Perkins + Will, the global design firm.
One of the topics discussed–and one mentioned on this blog previously–is the importance of perception in the urban environment. Above is a diagram of a portion of Manhattan from the article, making the point that if you’re standing at Lexington and 32nd, and a friend calls to say “meet me for coffee at Lex and 42nd”, you’d start walking the short 10 blocks without hesitation. If that same friend says “meet me at 6th and 32nd”, despite the fact it’s exactly the same distance, you’ll brace yourself for a less amusing crosstown schlep. Why? Short blocks with more intersections to cross mean more diversity and visual interest; long blocks with fewer intersections mean less diversity and more visual monotony.
The same could be said for blocks containing empty storefronts, parking lots, few awnings or projecting signage: it becomes a chore to walk. It becomes a delight to walk when you’re visually stimulated on a regular basis along the route. You think less about the distance, and more about the pleasure of being in the street. Food for thought as you think about your next cup of coffee.
[thanks to Co.Design for the diagram]