NYC –> Shanghai, 26 days: What Not To Wear

August 15th, 2013

Or how not to “dress” a street.

2013-08-06 20.13.27 Lately, I’ve made it a point to vary my routes throughout the City – partly to increase my chances of making new discoveries and partly looking for fodder for this mini-blog series. And so I came upon this behemoth of a structure in the Lower East Side. I suppose most people may not think twice about this type of building. Maybe some attentive folks might think it ugly. But it’s more than just an eyesore. This building, with its blank, concrete facade, turns its back on the street. There’s no life on the ground floor. It’s what we in the “biz” call a “lack of transparency.” And its consequences are indeed beyond the aesthetic. Imagine this scene in the dark. Would you like to walk down this street? Suppose you have taken it upon yourself to “vary” your route for fun? Would you ever choose to walk this way? And what if all of the streets near you looked like this (and believe me, there’s still many a Downtown laden with buildings just like this one)? Conscious or not, lay person or professional urban designer, your behavior is likely to be impacted by buildings like these – and not in a positive way (it’s why we account for this in State of Place). Streetscapes are like theater backdrops for public life. They shape our experiences, enjoyment, and ultimately our choices – choices that may have real-world health – mental and physical – consequences.

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