Friday, September 2, 2011

For the Love of Cities. By urbanist Peter Kageyama

Excerpt of the review by Mark Lydon:

When discussing cities, "livability" may not be easily defined, but it is certainly measured and referenced with increased frequency.
But what about lovability?
Peter Kageyama, founder of Creative Cities Productions, tackles this question in the recently published For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places.
In the introduction to this fast moving 215-page book, Kageyama asserts that when considering the improvement of cities, the pursuit of livability, no matter how it is defined or measured, is not enough.
He writes: "Livable is good—it's a fine aspiration that we have yet to achieve on any large scale. But I think we can do better. Instead of merely livable, I think we need to start thinking about how we make our cities more lovable. When we love something, we cherish it; we protect it; we do extraordinary things for it."
The work of Jan Gehl, Richard Florida, and Charles Landry—a triumvirate of urbanists known for deftly quantifying a city's more qualitative characteristics—clearly informs Kageyama's work. Indeed, you won't find a single dry economic, public health, environmental, or other statistical indicator between the book's cover. Nor will you find the standard recounting of America's city planning history—I've read enough of those too. And while the author does briefly lean on James Howard Kunstler's work to describe how Americans have built too many places not worth caring about, this is simply a book about cities, those who love them, and why that matters when discussing their future.
Thus, you will discover that San Diego has the most dog-friendly beaches; that Providence is home to the most grant makers per capita; and that Pittsburgh's Primanti's Bros. offer a deeply loved, place-based cuisine. Quirky facts these may be, but the author explains that they are just a few demonstrable ways cities become more appealing and more lovable to their current and potential inhabitants.
While the book covers a range of relevant topics— the importance of walkability, openness, and increasing public engagement through social media—the book focuses mostly on "co-creators" and how they make cities more lovable. And according to Kageyama successful cities consistently attract and retain an evolving community of co-creators – those committed entrepreneurs, artists, performers, organizers, and concerned citizens—who "make things, and make things happen."
Keep on reading:

¨We think of city infrastructure in a particular way – sort of like bones and connective tissue in a body; the major structural components that support our existence. Beyond the bones, we need to include key pieces that nourish our higher selves- our minds and spirits. If cities are merely paved surfaces and police and fire service, there is nothing that distinguishes one place from another. But this isn’t the case: The Gallup Soul of the Community survey from 2008 to 2010 found strong correlations between peoples’ emotional attachment to the communities they lived in, and higher levels of local GDP. They also found a link between passion for and loyalty to places, and the health of the local economy.
These results should not be surprising — we all recognize that when children, pets, plants or even objects are loved, they thrive (yes objects – just look at the car of someone who loves it). So this emotional dimension to infrastructure should not be seen as superfluous. Not long ago, the medical community discounted the idea that sunlight, plants, laughter and human proximity were inside the serious discussion of medicine. Today, the best hospitals like the Mayo Clinic employ design teams to incorporate gardens, social activity rooms, and more to improve patient outcomes. These elements do not take away from the core science and technology, but rather provide a necessary compliment to our overall approach to health.¨ (P. Kageyama)
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