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A Listicle with a Little Difference

March 1, 2013

There’s a whole ‘school’ of writing – Buzzfeed-like blogs – devoted to lists.  Listicles, they call them.  And when it comes to the urban environment, lists are irresistible.

But here’s one – 10 urban qualities central to every city - bySeattleite Chuck Wolfe in Crosscut that’s slightly offbeat, while still addressing the question of what makes for good urban design. I took a couple of examples as illustration:

Water features that emulate nature, in context:

10_Urban_Qualities_Every_City_Should_Have_4

While not always allowable for health and safety reasons, water features in the public domain evoke the spontaneous puddles, pools and streams of urban times gone by. Just as sidewalk tables and benches give this street in Melbourne, Australia a human scale, the central water feature complements the greenery and surprises passersby with the unexpected. There are lessons to be learned from these kinds of small-scale improvements. Not only does this coupling mimic a natural ecosystem, it also fulfills a dual aesthetic and drainage function.

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Young children in open squares:

10_Urban_Qualities_Every_City_Should_Have_8

Every urban open space should be a place where children can safely wander and explore at more than arm’s length from their parents or family. The most simple human experience, seeing your shadow, becomes touching theater to nearby observers. This scene in a Barcelona square is a challenge and a test: Can children safely chase their shadows where you live?

Full list here.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Guest permalink
    March 1, 2013 3:25 pm

    I could easily see a blind person falling into that water feature.

  2. March 3, 2013 11:41 am

    Gord – Cute, but not much more than that, I’m afraid. Witness the lack of replies to ths posting.

    IMO another Seattle commentator on city life has made and continues to make much more useful observations, if not exactly lists (or listicles, if you must) – David Sucher. His 1995 book “City Comforts” and its recent updates should be added to any aspiring urbanist’s book shelf. Observant, well-written and geared to the professional and interested amateur alike.

    • April 7, 2013 11:46 am

      David’s book is still unrivaled in many respects and should not be forgotten. See my comment below re the value of lists :)

  3. Sandy James permalink
    March 4, 2013 10:33 am

    Hi Gord
    I have to agree with Frank Ducote. Charlottetown, PEI has a water feature in the middle of one of its downtown streets. The first time I saw it I thought a call to city hall was needed as it looked like a spray leak, not a contextual comment on water. The photo above actually fragments the street and people’s ability to engage with each other. Beware the water hazard.

  4. April 7, 2013 11:43 am

    Gordon, thanks so much for including. Fascinating how people respond to listiclicles, which Ironically, I generally disfavor and are generally taken way, way to literally. My pending book goes into far more detail :I

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