“We can therefore understand all of the cardinal virtues by considering how each is embodied in the organization of an ideal city.”
– Socrates in The Republic, by Plato
Six fundamental things a city needs to get right
Humanity has not put up a single beautiful city since 1905, claims the narrator. The video below presents a manifesto about how to make attractive cities. The main point is that six things are required to make a city feel right. They are:
Organised complexity, through a combination of order and variety.
Visible life, where the life of the city is on display. The more life and people we see when we walk down a street like Las Ramblas in Barcelona, the more attractive it feels.
Compact, with high density of people and the balanced moderating input of living close to each other, with lots of public spaces where we can hang out. Ideally squares, not more than 30 meters across, containment, not claustrophobia.
Orientation and Mystery, by definition cities are huge, but the cities we love also have a lot of backstreets and small lanes, where we can feel cosy and get a bit lost.
Scale, too tall buildings make cities dull. On average five floor buildings, with some purposeful landmark towers that are really special is the ideal.
Make it local, there are many distinct styles of happiness and the modern sameness of cities is a problem. Cities need to have strong characters related to the local culture and settings. Find a style of architecture that make your location specific.
Why do we not make attractive cities in recent times? The video claims we have an intellectual confusion about beauty and a political lack of will to regulate opportunistic developers that puts profit before ambitious city planning regulations. The proof of success? It lies in visitor statistics.
I was recommended to watch the 15 minutes video by John Banka at Colliers in Warsaw, and I fully agree with him that this video is fascinating. It is produced by The School of Life.