NYC –> Shanghai, 34 days: Six of one, half dozen of the other?

August 7th, 2013. 34 days.

 A tower in the park. Question is, where in the world is this tower located, and in which “park?”

Can you tell?? Take a guess and then scroll down to find out if you were right…

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I’ll give you a hint…I came across this building yesterday on my way to meet a friend (to discuss our respective startups – always tons of fun! – more on the “work from anywhere” perk later) at one of the oldest, historic coffee shops in NYC, Caffe Reggio (a must-see – and worth the trek West! – if you haven’t been). Ok, so now you know it’s in the US – and if you were really good at playing Where’s Waldo, the U-haul truck would have already been a dead give away that this building was stateside.

This is one of NYU’s infamous Silver Towers on the even more notorious “super blocks” in the West Village – and for me, it’s one of – and perhaps the only – area’s eyesore(s). But that’s not what caught my attention yesterday. I’ve long bemoaned these structures for both somehow managing to make Houston (the street, not the City) that much more unpleasant to walk along and for destroying the innate fine-grained fabric of the West Village. Instead, with China clearly on my mind, while I had already certainly drawn the comparison, it just struck me how similar these towers are to the now nearly ubiquitous structures that line the streets of so many mega-cities in China. At least in NYC, they are perhaps urban design “nuisances” that you shake your head at or maybe grip about – a lot; in China, their pervasiveness makes them a serious obstacle to walkability, livability and sustainability. It’s for this reason that I cannot wait to get to Shanghai for my Fulbright and start to better understand both their (and other urban design factors’) impact on behavior and identify best practices for policy and practice that facilitate the opposite of these mega-structures of which our “dear friend” Corbusier was so fond...Let me at ’em! 🙂

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