Design matters, plain and simple. If you want to understand the values of the people in a city, take a look around. It is often visible on the very streets. As the Bard says, “For the apparel oft proclaims the man.”
Cities that care about how the world sees them show it in innovative architecture, inspiring public spaces, carefully protected vernacular buildings, and attention to detail. Cities that don’t are easy to spot – and they’re rarely the ones atop anybody’s list of places to visit or adopt as home.
Design is a key element in all aspects of the urban realm, from the arts and education to land-use, transportation, and tourism. Done well, it can make a city more livable and contribute to its ability to attract talent. Unfortunately, its also erroneously assumed to be able to cure all ills. Design is important, but even great design won’t fix unwise planning or broken economic models.
What I’d like to see more of in our nation’s cities: uniquely innovative and place-specific architecture and design, aesthetically pleasing designs for urban highways, contextual preservation of historic structures, mindfulness regarding commercial sign pollution, use of appropriate materials, and attractive and pedestrian-friendly urban thoroughfares.