6. The City


When we scale up to the city level we see the implication of this human experience oversight multiplied throughout the urban landscape. Architectural and urban development projects have often tried in vain to bring cities back to life by building bigger, more impressive buildings downtown. But as cities like Detroit have come to find out, shiny new convention centers and beautiful buildings alone can’t do all the work. Adding responsive facades to the buildings aren’t going to draw people into the city either. It’s the thriving conversations happening between the structures that generate thriving cities (Brooks “The Splendor of Cities”).

Fig. 6. Cake ladies in Downtown Seattle (2006)

Urban activist Jane Jacobs saw successful cities “not as a mass of buildings but rather as a vessel of empty spaces, in which people interacted with other people. The city wasn’t a skyline — it was a dance” (Lehrer “A Physicist Solves the City”). Again, we see the lively core of a city focuses on the experience of the space between.  In this case, not only is it about the varied paths an individual can take to get from point X to Y, but also the constructive collisions that happens when multiple people intersect each other on their individual journeys (see Fig. 6). In contrast, cities like Phoenix, who have prioritized isolation in single family homes over public space, have performed poorly on a range of urban metrics from income to innovation. It’s when people collide and influence each other in those in between spaces their ideas can develop and grow even faster (Lehrer “A Physicist Solves the City”).

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