New Year’s Retrospective: 2015

>> Is the grass always greener on the other side?
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>> I think every American who is familiar with foreign cities in the contemporary developed world has an intuitive feeling that most of those cities are more livable than most American cities.
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>> Whether reading novels set in Paris, vacationing in Florence, or working in Tokyo, the advantages of dense and walkable urban living are palpable.  But most people don’t know why.  A common answer is that the grass is simply greener on the other side.  This is an example of what James Fallows calls “False Equivalence“.
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>> Some urban areas really are more livable than others; if we wish to match their success, we must understand why.
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>> I started this blog in June of 2015, with the goal of applying Jane Jacobs’s ideas and methods to the comparative analysis of different urban contexts.  I wanted to understand what makes a city great by testing quantitative metrics that could predict the quality of urban areas.
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>> In these last 6 months, I’ve analysed several neighborhoods from a Jacbobsian perspective, emphasizing her most easily quantifiable conditions (e.g. blocks must be short).  In general, I think that the positive and negative aspects of these neighborhoods have been mostly captured by Jacobsian evaluation.
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>> However, while writing about Kitano-cho, I began to feel that the various Jacobsian criteria did not fully capture what a wonderful place it is (in particular, narrowness of streets was not a major theme of “Death and Life”, but it does seem to be one of the characteristic features of Kitano-cho).  While writing that post I discovered A.A. Price’s excellent essay on why narrow streets are so great, and I think it is worthy of the canon.
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>>I intend to incorporate some kind of Narrow Street Index into future analyses.