Friday, January 18, 2013

Great cities, great places

photo of marsh and trees in autumn sunshine
© harrington
It's possible you may wonder what yesterday's post about mixed use development has to do with places like the one you see above. I believe that we need to create great cities to protect great places. Throughout history, cities have been associated with crowding, crime, pollution, illness and the like. Over the past few centuries, we've learned much more about where and how to build beautiful communities that incorporate nature and function well for people. Aldo Leopold has written about honoring a land ethic. Most cities are build on land that once served other uses. Some cities are bringing back urban agriculture. Minneapolis and St. Paul keep doing more to honor the beauty and recreational uses of the Mississippi as it flows through. Many of the communities in My Minnesota are eminently walkable. More could be. Ian McHarg has provided guidance on which natural functions most deserve protection from and inclusion with urbanization. Donella Meadows talks to us about paying attention to feed back and learning to dance with systems. Take a minute and think about what you experience in a vehicle at 60 or 70 miles and hour compared to what it's like to walk or bike and what you hear and see and smell at that more human speed and scale. If we don't do more to use what we already know about creating great cities, we're going to continue to want to move away from each other so that some of us don't have to put up with the rest of us. Once we're spread out enough (How's that sprawly thingy working out for us?), we need to substitute travel time for distance as a measure of convenience. In a well-designed mixed use neighborhood, travel time and distance are human scale, not auto scale. Places like the one above can be left undeveloped by developing more places like Crocus Hill in St. Paul, or Washington Avenue near the Open Book building in Minneapolis. Or your neighborhood?