Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Speaking of Community Design...

Closely related to my last post on Queens, New York's Forest Hills Garden...

David Byrne's Perfect City
A Talking Head Dreams of a Perfect City

The Sept. 11, 2009 Wall Street Journal had a very good Life & Style article by David Byrne. In it, Byrne sets out to define what, he feels, makes a city livable. He lays out these 10 elements:

- Size
- Density
- Sensibility and attitude
- Security
- Chaos and danger
- Human scale
- Parking
- Boulevards
- Mixed use
- Public spaces

From a human factors perspective, I find his "Scale" category most interesting:

"Scale is important. In London people hang out in Soho, Covent Garden, Mayfair and other areas of mostly low buildings packed closely together. The City (their financial district), like the downtown in many American cities, is full of tall offices and it empties out at night. It isn't that bustling in the daytime either. Some sort of compromise might be more ideal—the tall towers mixed in with the modest-sized shops and restaurants."

But one also has to love the idea of "Chaos and Danger". As Byrne puts it, "A little touch of chaos and danger makes a city sexy."

For Minnesotans, there's even an insightful comment about Minneapolis missed by many lake or sea-side communities. Check it out.

[SIDE NOTE: Since being the front man for the Talking Heads, Byrne has explored a number of fascinating topics including design. Though dated, his 2003 article for Wired magazine, Learning to Love PowerPoint, is a thought-provoking read. Find this viewpoint balanced with Edward Tufte's PowerPoint is Evil. Who doesn't love a spirited debate?]

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