I heard an interview on NPR the other day with author Ariel Sabar who wrote a book about couples who had met and fill in love in New York’s iconic public spaces. The book, Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York, explores the critical and often overlooked role that our built environment plays in our emotional lives.
Sabar notes that some places are better designed for interacting, for people watching and for making eye contact with others.
“So the things that matter are, if a place is beautiful, if it gets your pulse racing and your adrenaline flowing, if there’s something interesting to look at, whether it’s a juggler or a street musician, then it’s the kind of place where strangers are more likely to sort of think favorably of one another and to strike up a conversation. And so, you know, there’s something to be said for going to a museum where you’re surrounded by beautiful objects because the people inside will also seem more beautiful” said Sabar to NPR’s Michel Martin.
In For the Love of Cities I note that we are “social creatures… endlessly fascinated by watching each other. Increase the people watching potential of the city, and you increase fun and overall satisfaction.” Because we want/need to see each other, public places that are designed to facilitate that connection innately make us happy. We respond to them, we are drawn to them. Indeed it is these places that we say we love about our cities and value disproportionately in the sum total of place.
Sabar concluded that “we do need to care about our urban parks and squares and gathering places. Because this is where, you know, people engage. This is where community is built. This is where democracy happens, democracy with a lower case d.” He pointed out that in Egypt, the central focus of that human revolution was a grand public square. An extreme example but it underscores the importance of these places in community engagement.
When polled or asked as part of a focus group, people will tell you the standard litany of what they want from their city – safety, a decent education system, transportation and lower taxes. Psychologists have noted that we are really bad judges of what we think makes us happy. We say we want safety, education and transportation and on some level we do (and we need them). But what I believe we really want, at our core, is connections to other people and meaningful engagement. And that comes from “silly” things like public parks, squares, public art, playgrounds and dog parks. No one falls in love with a place because someone fixed the potholes.
Positive trend for the Rust Belt. I think it has a lot to do with a sense of opportunity in these cities and feeling like you can make a difference.
Cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit are attracting more highly educated people.
Last week's look back at Hurricane Katrina got me thinking about the unique role that we as citizens play in making and rebuilding our cities.
Congratulations to my friends in Richmond, Indiana for being named the best small city in Indiana by 101 USA.http://101usa.com/top-20-small-cities-in-indiana/20/
Congratulations to my friends in Richmond, Indiana for being named the best small city in Indiana by 101 USA.
Indiana is kind of amazing, just plain and simple. While some ignorant people may call the place a “fly-over state,” we have to respectfully and firmly disagree with them. This state is certainly m...
Brazil's coolest graffiti.
Alexandre Orion/Matias Picón/Tinho “The outskirts are in a constant process of transformation and ruin,” said visual artist Mauro Neri, one of Grajaú’s 500
Tag Cloud$500 Project 1% Solution Akron architecture Ariel Sabar bike friendly Cleveland co-creators crowdsourced curiosity design Detroit economic development emotions Florida grassroots Iowa Jan Gehl Jerry Paffendorf Las Vegas lovable cities love note love your city McPherson Michigan New Orleans New York City pedestrian friendly Philadelphia public art Rust Belt to Artist Belt Sarasota social media St. Louis St. Petersburg Steve Powers STL Style Syracuse t-shirt Tampa TED TEDx Tom Brown urban planning young professionals