January 3rd, 2020

Phoenix

"human scale" cities

This comes up a lot in discussion of density. The idea being that 2-4 story or such buildings are "human scale", vs. skyscrapers. My gut has some sympathy with it. OTOH...

A few years ago I took a bus to NYC. As we crawled down the avenues of Manhattan, I looked out at the 18 story or whatever buildings and felt intimidated.

But once I was living there, walking around those buildings was usually fun. What you see at ground level is a lot more salient than what's above, and lots of narrow businesses provide tons of options and stimulation; if it's more than human scale, it's less from height and more from the sheer overabundance of options. Also a poor people/sidewalk ratio.

Likewise, when I first visited central Tokyo, after some years in Indiana, in a way I felt at home, despite the different culture and language. Tall buildings, busy-ness of shops and pedestrians, knowing there was a good transit nearby... it felt more human *friendly*, anyway, than even downtown Bloomington.

Tangent on how many options: say you're standing on a Manhattan avenue, and are willing to walk 10 minutes, or 1000 meter. If stores are 4 meters wide, that's 250 stores. x2, because often two stories of businesses. x2, because both sides of the street. And x2 again, because you can walk 10 minutes north or south. So 2000 small businesses in a 10 minute walk! Well, no businesses in intersections, so take off 1/4 or even 1/3. And some are probably bigger, 6 m or more. 2000 * 2/3 * 4/6 = 888 businesses... still a lot. And not counting anything that might be on cross-streets, or walking over to an adjacent avenue.

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