Name a great city that doesn’t have a tightly connected system of rights-of-way and small blocks.
Of course, one can argue about what comprises a great city, but in reality a great city must be walkable, adaptable (practically adaptable, not theoretically adaptable), and carry everything you need to live your life, most preferably without a car.
It doesn’t matter if it is the more random agglomeration of villages that came to be London, or the planned gridiron of Manhattan.
It doesn’t matter if it is small, such as Savannah,
or large, such as Paris.
But it must be a place that people love to visit, love to live in, that has lots of connected streets and smallish blocks. Even if you can, somehow, find the one or two great cities that don’t have these characteristics, one can easily rattle off hundreds that do.
Now, name a great city that meets these criteria, that was planned, designed and built in the years since 1950. It simply doesn’t exist on any scale. There are examples of small efforts that tend to get close to these characteristics, but in general no substantial new city, or even an extension of an existing city, has been realized that aligns with these criteria. And even if you can, somehow, find the one or two great cities that were built in the last seventy years that have these characteristics, one can easily rattle off dozens that were planned or emerged prior to 1950.
Following this logic, if it isn’t possible to do this, to name great cities that don’t have these two characteristics, then why we would ever plan or design a city that people live and work in that doesn’t provide this? Why wouldn’t everything we do start with this?
Interestingly, across the globe, when those in charge of developing cities are asked, the general response is of course we should do this. I have heard this response everywhere from China to the Middle East to the United States.
Then why don’t we?
Of course, we all know the answer to this. It’s called land-use planning and, following that, transportation demand. And it is the death of cities, or at least the death of great cities.
So, the real question is, name any great cities that were born from land-use planning. They simply don’t exist, yet we continue to plan using this system. And in doing so, we are making it impossible, or at least extremely difficult, to make great places.