I’m skeptical that a concept of an ideal city could even exist. I like too many contrasting, non-complimentary features.
On the one hand, polished infrastructure of cutting-edge technology and urban development gives something to marvel at. Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Toronto, among others, showcase outlandish feats of progress.
On the other, broken settings of limited means also possess particular beauty, but more importantly, foster creativity and innovation. It’s more satisfying to solve actual problems you can see and feel, rather than artificial problems of artificial commodities in first-world industries. Or maybe I simply like broken things.
The more developed economies strive to address the very bi-products they instigate. The consequences of much state-of-the-art development tend to encompass unhealthy comforts, recurring stress, poor nutrition, poorer eyesight, obesity, cardiovascular problems, isolation, unhappiness. To counterbalance, we cater options among minimalism, holistic retreats, calorie counter watches, urban revival projects, boot-camp group classes and the such.
Many third-world regions often exhibit quiet the contrary: more movement, better physique, better eyesight, more independent in term of making own ends meet. The incentive to mitigate local constraints stimulates more interaction, more creativity.
I used to often complain of sidewalk quality in cities, whenever uneven, full of dents, stones, slopes, or in other words, erratic. I used to prefer plain, even surfaces. The latter I still don’t mind on that particular occasion. It accommodates wearing nice shoes on an evening walk to dinner.
Previously, I also sported injured knees, ultra-sensitive to exotic grounding. The knees probably remain in questionable state, but at least now I have the leg musculature to deal with terrestrial variability and increased stressors. With that, and proper footwear considered (any that is not strictly improper), I now prefer to walk on natural imperfections. It helps when the legs don’t constantly feel on the verge of collapse like hollow dried wood.
Exotic grounding is often characteristic of less developed nations. Granted, it stems from lack of resources to elevate it to ‘higher’ standards, not of consideration for leg movement more aligned with our evolutionary roots. And yet, pedestrian (not motorized) movement considered, I find such surfaces much preferable for precisely the secondary effect.
Plain, even pavement of developed economies (although far not all), causes atrophy among the myriads of unused leg muscles. Too sudden exposure to the contrary can even lead to injury, per my experience a few years ago. Don’t take your ability to tread exotic, natural landscapes for granted. It is one of the greatest gifts!
I enjoy regions that facilitate pedestrian movement, mixed with slopes and exotic grounding. My ideal city would precisely feature such terrain. In fact, the city wouldn’t have automobiles or any high-horsepower vehicles. The terrestrial system would revolve around pedestrians, bicycles, and maybe the lower-emission transport among electric scooters or the lighter motor-bikes. If sufficiently sized, the city would enable some variety of public transport, but constrained to rail or some infrastructure not in conflict with pedestrian movement.
Concerning the city blueprint, on the one-hand, a grid of pleasant Euclidean shapes makes one feel at ease with navigation. On the other, the old-world labyrinths and the unpredictable favela curves cause my mind to operate at a more gratifying state - that is, the mind unleashed to it’s natural device, not sterilized by cognitively-numbing navigational aids. It follows, in spite of the lazy inclination towards comfort, I prefer three-dimensional random contours over two-dimensional rectangular planes.
Some other desirables:
- Nature, parks, forests, ideally even mountains nearby.
- Small or even tiny lodgings attainable for anyone choosing a smaller footprint and minimal lifestyle. Not held as an oddity.
- Open relations between neighbours considered normal. Freedom to borrow and exchange viewed as normal, in contrast to resource squandering and consumption inherent to many Western nations.
- The freedom to lay on a bench all night and contemplate the sky without the social stigma or security concerns.
- Non-renewable resource awareness; constructions that leverage natural surroundings for heat/cooling/insulation, rather than resort to energy-consuming artificial means.
- Freedom of superficial architectural constraints. Choice of elegance or simplicity, luxury or spartan layouts, elaborate or boring, luxurious or cheap plastic, all viable options.
Have I ever encountered a city that even approximated the somewhat sloppy abstraction of a visual I’ve painted?
Concerning motorized traffic, never. There have always been fossil-fuel burning automobiles. Concerning other details, to a partially-encompassing extent.
In major Asian conglomerates of Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, although different in their cultural subtleties, I noticed interesting synthesis of elements. There is some of the modern mixed with a lot of the traditional; newer infrastructure next to the ancient; roadways varied from contemporary and well-paved to rocky and dilapidated. The appalling variability across architectural styles sort of respects my preference for ‘open playground’ development. The extravagant combines with the severely stripped down, yet in a less segregated character compared to a European or North American city. The same extends to the lavishing city of Tokyo, although the latter exhibits that developed-economy element of tension and notably severe stress.
In consequence of overcrowding, many of the mentioned cities naturally resort to creative solutions for mitigating housing and transport. The trend leans towards minimal, energy conscientious, and malleable: tiny lodgings and obscure establishments wedged into unpredictable corners; heavily varied forms of transport ranging from the larger, mass-scale, to the tiny, motor-less; labyrinths, curves, intertwined passages in lieu of grids; open and transparent establishments (facilitated by warm climates, sure); improvisation over rigidity.
Something in the Asian flow of life feels more organic compared to the European/North American continents. What can I say. I have a soft spot for Asia.
A few additional remarks I wish to highlight of my ideal city. Provided everyone is left to own device to pursue happiness and success without inhibiting that of others, and provided a degree of mutual respect, I don’t care to see artificial constraints, especially those given shape out of stigma or prejudice.
That includes freedom of ethnic interaction, insofar as not superficially/politically constrained from above, but left to own inclination; the freedom to hang laundry to dry on any balcony or tree branch; the freedom to raise farm animals without concern for corporate lobbying or violation of agricultural reform and whatnot; the freedom to (non-destructively) ‘play’ with the surrounding environment without concern for being challenged or detained; the freedom to barter or compete without need for antitrust laws or concern of tax evasion and complex accounting.
Some of it may not be practical. Some of it I earnestly believe could be.
Questions, comments? Connect.