CityLab: “What Makes a City Beautiful?”

In this post from CityLab, “What Makes a City Beautiful?” philosopher, author and founder of London’s The School of Life, Alain de Botton makes an appeal to all of us to use our power as citizens, to create political backing and to influence our elected leaders to create beautiful cities. De Botton says beauty in urban settings must be objective—and to argue otherwise is a danger to our quality of life.

Summed up from his beautifully illustrated video below are six qualities of attractive cities:

  1. Order (buildings should be uniform in appearance and layout—to a degree);
  2. Visible life (it’s nice to see people walking the streets and working in shop windows);
  3. Compactness (don’t sprawl);
  4. Orientation and mystery (a balance of large and small streets should allow for efficient travel… and for getting lost, on occasion);
  5. Scale (a building should be five stories max, unless what it stands for is really worth more air space);
  6. A sense of the local (Melbourne should look a little different from Barcelona, because its cultural and geographic qualities are different).

Whether you agree with the principles de Botton outlined or not, one thing is for sure: we have the opportunity—and the obligation—as citizens to speak up for the type of city we desire. If you missed it, be sure to read our post on where the mayoral candidates stand on Downtown revitalization here and make sure to vote this spring.