people second-lining in the streets in New Orleans
A friend on Facebook recently pointed me to this interesting Wall Street Journal article from last year where musician, artist, writer, designer, and one of my favorite people on the planet, David Byrne, outlines the elements of what would comprise his perfect city. As a person who is currently dissatisfied with where she lives but unsure as to where to go next, this is a perfect thought exercise for me. But I think I come up a little short since I have so many places I still feel like I need to visit before I could craft my Ultimate City. But for now I can still present you with....
Features of the City of My (Current) Dreams*
Size: Half the size of New York would be good. Maybe limited to the size of the three boroughs that I frequented the most -- Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Trim the fat, there's still plenty city there.
Density: The density of Berlin seemed just right to me. At around 3.4million (according to Wikipedia), it is less than half the size of NYC (and 1.5X larger than the entire country of Slovenia), which means you can usually get a seat on the subway and you don't usually have to fight for sidewalk space, but you still run into (or try to avoid) people you know on the streets. I also crave good people watching, something that this level of density offers.
Sensibility and attitude: It would be a mix of New York and Berlin. I'd take the Berlin laid- back kindness mixed with the grizzled and blunt attitude of an old school native Brooklynite.
Security: I always feel pretty safe in NYC, because there are almost always plenty of people out on the streets.
Chaos and danger: There is something about the organized chaos of New York City that I really love. You don't know what you will find around a corner. There can be a film crew shooting or a man taking a crap on a sidewalk. It makes for interesting cocktail chat and creative inspiration.
Mixed Use - Creative/Culture Areas: New York does this mighty nicely, with work/live space where artists can paint or sculpt all day and then have awesome loft parties or dance exhibitions or rock shows in the evening. Ljubljana has Metelkova, but it is too grungey for my taste (plus it is only one place, not an area) as are these kinds of spaces in Berkeley and San Francisco. When it's done well, New York does it really smashingly and that would be a nice feature for my dream city.
Transportation: My ideal city would have precious few cars and lots of bike lanes, buses, and subway lines...maybe some sort of congestion charge like in London to limit the number of cars in the center.
Public Space: I can't think of a city I've been to that really gets parks fabulously right (NYC does OK), but my dream city would have good green parks with ample space for exercising, walking animals, kids playgrounds, and public concerts and events.
Community: New Orleans does this gorgeously. The city is so many different communities laid on top each other in so many fantastic formations focused on art, food, music, activism, academia.... They may not have the greatest work ethic but they do have a strong party ethic and a wonderfully unique culture that hold people together in good times and bad.
Dancing In The Street: New Orleans wins for this one with its impromptu and very fun second line culture, though Berlin comes a close second with its "Any Reason is a Good Reason to Dance in the Street" attitude. New Orleans wins for better music. :)
*to be continually updated as I travel
Top 10 Cities I Think Will Affect My Vision After I Visit Them
1) Sao Paulo
4) Hong Kong
What about you?