Brainstorming my ideal city

2019-11-26 @Travel

I’m skeptical of such a concept. As it stands, 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 or Toronto showcase outlandish feats of progress.

On the other, broken settings of limited means also possess particular beauty. More importantly, they foster creativity and innovation. It’s more satisfying to solve palpable problems rather than those of artificial commodities of first-world industries. Or perhaps I prefer broken things.

The more developed economies strive to address the very byproducts they instigate. The consequences of much of the state-of-the-art tend to encompass unhealthy comforts, recurring stress, poor nutrition, poorer eyesight, obesity, cardiovascular issues, isolation, unhappiness.

To counterbalance, welcome minimalism, holistic retreats, calorie counting watches, urban revival projects and bootcamp sessions.

Many third-world regions exhibit the contrary: greater movement, better physique, better eyesight, more independence at making ends meet. The incentive to circumvent local constraints stimulates more creativity and interaction.

I used to complain of sidewalk quality whenever encountered the uneven, the potholes, the stones, the plenitude of slopes: in other words, the erratic. I used to prefer even surfaces. The latter I still don’t mind on that particular occasion. It accommodates wearing nice shoes on a burlesque evening.

Previously I also suffered 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 the natural imperfections. It helps when the legs don’t constantly feel on the verge of collapse like decaying wood.

Exotic grounding is often characteristic of less developed nations. Granted, it stems from lack of resources to execute ‘higher’ standards, not out of consideration for physique more aligned with our evolutionary roots. And yet pedestrian (not motorized) movement considered, I find such surfaces preferable for precisely the byproduct.

To deprive the legs of natural stimulation is to cause 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 back. Don’t take your ability to tread natural landscapes for granted!

A good balance would combine effective pedestrian movement with ease of access to the exotic. My ideal city would occupy such terrain. No 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. Have I not depicted a North-African medina?

If sufficiently sized, the city would enable some variety of public transport, but constrained to rail or some infrastructure not in conflict with pedestrians.

Concerning the 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 gear: left to natural design, not subdued by cognitively-sterilizing navigational aids. It follows, in spite of the lazy inclination towards comfort, I prefer random three-dimensional contours over two-dimensional rectangular planes.

Other desirables:

Have I ever encountered a city that even approximates this sloppy abstraction?

Concerning motorized traffic, never. There have always been fossil-fuel burning automobiles. Concerning other detail, to a partially-encompassing extent.

In major Asian conglomerates such as Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, though different in their cultural profile, I noticed interesting synthesis of the modern infrastructure next to the traditional, roadways varied from well-paved to rocky and dilapidated. The kind of architectural diversity somewhat reflects the open playground development paradigm. The extravagant mingles with the severely stripped, though in a less segregated character compared to a European or North American city. The same could be said of Tokyo if not for the developed-economy synergetic tension and the accompanying stress.

In consequence of overcrowding, many of the said cities naturally resort to creative housing and transport solutions. The trend leans towards minimal, energy conscientious, malleable: miniscule habitations, cellules, obscure establishment spontaneously erected in inconspicuous cavities; transport ranging from the larger, mass-scale, to the tiny, motor-less; labyrinths, curves, intertwined corridors in lieu of grids; open and transparent entry (facilitated by warm climates); improvisation over rigidity.

Something in the particularly South-Asian manner of life feels more primeval compared to the western continents.

A few additional remarks concerning the ideal. 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 arbitrary constraints, especially those molded of stigma and prejudice.

That includes ease of ethnic interaction, that is, plausibly unconstrained; the freedom to dry laundry on any balcony or branch; to raise farm animals without concern for corporate lobbying or violation of agricultural reform and whatnot; to (non-destructively) interact with the surrounding environment without concern for being challenged or detained; to barter or compete without 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.