For nearly a century now, urban theorists have been trying to pinpoint the specific factors that drive the formation of an “urban experience.” Perhaps one of the most basic factors in achieving a successful urban experience for any city is to achieve high numbers in an urban population. However, this in and of itself, is not enough to promote an atmosphere that is “urban.”
Along with a large population, must come diversity that helps fuel the melting pot of cultures, in terms of both wealth and ethnicity. This, after all, is what makes urban areas so interesting and unique. It is this melting pot that fosters an atmosphere of urban vibrancy, as seen in the diverse districts of New York and San Francisco.
Along with diversity, comes a sense of uniqueness felt within the city. This uniqueness, as argued by James H. Kunstler, creates a “sense of place” as well as a “place worth caring about.” These places, then, help craft a sense of identity and emotional affiliation with residents. Without this emotional attachment, no one would bother caring about the space they live, causing an urban “failure.”
The question becomes, then, what elements of urban design promote a sense of urban vibrancy?
The following four points help answer this question:
- Pedestrian friendly design;
- Mixed-use development;
- Spaces that encourage social interaction and involvement, such as this park in Catalunya, Spain;
- Interesting architecture.
Notice how all of these design points encourage interaction. In a sense, the urban experience can be summed up as the intensified interaction between people of different cultures. It is up to urban planners to design a space that encourages the interaction of people. Then, and only then, will a city achieve the status of being a vibrant urban area.
Do you agree? Do you believe the interactions of people from varying cultures creates a sense of vibrant urbanity?