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Thread: World's most unique city? Best designed?

  1. #16


    Compared to Paris, London has a very similar street system
    Not at all.
    The street system in London is a mess.
    Paris has a decent plan. And boulevards.

  2. #17
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    Nov 2002
    New York City


    Quote Originally Posted by Fabb
    I'm surprised that nobody mentioned Barcelona.
    I LOVE Barcelona. Haven't been there in three years, want to go back so badly. Not many tall buildings, though; but everything about it just screams modern. I read an article about Barcelona in TimeOut London in April that said that if Spain is the liberated convent of Europe, Barcelona is that one girl that still has stars in her eyes as to everything that is new and exciting in her world.

  3. #18


    I think the world's most unique city is Jarusalem, the heart of three of the world's major religions judiasm, christianity, and islam. It is a vibrant city with over 2000 years of history. Rome is also quite nice.

  4. #19
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    Sep 2003


    You mean, Jerusalem! Yes Jerusalem is unique indeed! It's also one of the oldest cities in the world as well. Each city is unique in many ways whether it's New York, Paris, Moscow or Katmandu.

    Mexico City is another city that I find fascinating. What's fascinating is Mexico City is not just one of the largest cities in the world but back in history, it was one of the largest city in the western hemisphere. But before, the city was called Tenochtitlan. Even Cortez who later on conquered the city find it too big and too populous compared to most European cities.

    Another fascinating thing is that the cities lies in a high altitude and have several skyscrapers built there, some over 700 ft. If anyone has watch the movie Romeo and Juliet starring Di Caprio and Claire Dames, most of the film was shot in Mexico City.

  5. #20


    For uniqueness my vote, without any hesitation, goes to Venice, Italy.

  6. #21


    Unique means one of a kind. For uniqueness, Zzed, without any hesitation I must agree.

    I would also add: for beauty.

    I have never seen a city as beautiful as Venice.

  7. #22
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    Sep 2003
    Jackson Heights


    Quote Originally Posted by TLOZ Link5
    Houston has an "Underground City" system of walkways downtown, as well. It is the largest city in the U.S. that has absolutely no zoning regulations: buildings are constructed according to market demand, though this can prove to be a problem regarding context to the surrounding neighborhood and landmarks preservation. Until its inaugural light-rail line is finished, it can be considered the largest American city with no mass-transit railroad system—I believe that its bus system is larger than New York's, at least concerning proportions.
    In its own way, perhaps Houston is the quintessential late 20th Century U.S. city. Its lack of zoning and the unfettered growth of its freeways has allowed market forces to create a city that perfectly reflects the nation's anti-urban tendencies.

    Internationally, I'd vote for Curitiba as a great example of late 20th Century planning.

    P.S. Houston's bus system is large, and in some ways quite innovative.

    But it does not come close to New York's in scale:

    New York City Transit - Bus
    2001 Annual Vehicle Revenue Miles: 101,025,661
    2001 Annual Unlinked Trips: 926,017,695

    Harris County METRO - Bus
    2001 Annual Vehicle Revenue Miles: 43,762,353
    2001 Annual Unlinked Trips: 99,182,853

    --National Transit Database

  8. #23



    So Venice gets the nod for uniqueness, but I think it would be foolish to emulate; canals don't make very efficient streets. Personally, I find New York, Paris and London to be more entertaining, at least partly because they are bigger. But "best-designed"? Well, London can hardly be said to be designed at all as a whole; it is really a collection of individually-designed parts. New York features a wonderfully-conceived street grid (the Madison Plan), but aside from this New York as a whole is undesigned.

    That leaves Paris. Haussmann's axis-mania confirmed centuries of unco-ordinated design fragments such as the Grand Axis from Louvre Courtyard through l'Arc de Triomphe (now continued through La Defense). The result is the poetry of sheer genius: grand boulevard vistas behind which teems the unkempt jumble of medieval Paris. Truly the best.

    Finally, Christian, here is the retro-sanisette (Fabb, have you seen one yet?):

    Really nice pictures of Paris architecture:

    For more on two of the Big Three:

  9. #24
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    New York City


    Saint Petersburg was planned from the ground up to be a European-style city to signify Russia's intention to be considered a part of Europe. The street grid reflects the best of Paris's boulevards.

  10. #25
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    Sep 2003


    The only city that had a similar canal system of Venice was Bangkok. But what happened in Bangkok, is automobiles became the mode of transportation and they had to adapt to roads so traffic became bad, if not, the worst in the world.

    A floating market in a Bangkok canal

    Some aspects of Paris are adapted to some US cities like in San Francisco for example.


    San Francisco

    US wise, San Francisco is my choice for most unique city. It has a very different athmosphere compared to other US cities. One, San Francisco is located in the West Coast but it has an East Coast feel to it. It's a walkable city. Transportation is very convinient compared to other California cities like Los Angeles or San Diego. Alot of attractions and a nice skyline. If New York is the gateway city to United States for most Europeans and other countries, to Asians, it's San Francisco (or Los Angeles).

    San Francisco skyscrapers at night

    Victorian architecture with the skyline in the background

    Rolling hills, cable cars, fisherman's wharf and of course, Alcatraz

  11. #26


    Ablarc, I would definitely NOT call NYC "undesigned." Manhattan can lull you into a sense that it's always been the way it is. Very deceptive. Aside from the grid plan, as grand as it is, you have to remember such trully grand urban design projects such as Park Avenue/Grand Central/Terminal City and Riverside Park, both built over vast rail yards (The LIRR yards are next to carry on this tradition). Let's not forget that Central Park was swamps, farms, and even some settlements of free blacks before every last tree, boulder and lake was designed and meticulously engineered to be so picturesque. I think these alone can compare to Hausman's dramatic impact on Paris. I haven't even mentioned the outer boroughs and suburbs yet... Jones Beach was engineered in the 1920's-- at scandalous expense-- to be so vast and acccomodating, linked to the nation's most ambitious system of Parkways.
    Undesigned? NYC lacks the architectural uniformity and civility of Paris, but it's far from undesigned.

  12. #27


    Add to your list: Rockefeller Center, Columbia University, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Stuyvesant Town, Battery Park City, Co-op City, Tudor City. New York is terrific and more than the sum of its parts. But it is not this as a result of an all-encompassing master plan. Paris is.

  13. #28


    Design wise...NYC has done some things right, but it has also done alot of things wrong. It's a "beautiful mess" as one architect said about New York.

    I believe San Francisco and Chicago has better urban planning/design than NYC in the U.S.

  14. #29

    Default Curitiba, Model City

    The following article is cobbled together from several reports available on the Internet.



    "It's the most innovative city in the world," declared Wally N'Dow of Gambia,chairman of the Habitat II summit.

    "Reports from Curitiba seem too good to be true," wrote Liana Vallicelli, a Halifax planner, "A number of the
    planning community in Halifax have had the opportunity to visit the city... I spent a few days
    there in December 1993 and was totally convinced. It was an attractive, modern, prosperous, comfortable and safe
    city, that seemed to have been plucked out of the heart of Europe."

    Curitiba is "a model city of the future," according to the director of New York City's Department of Environmental
    Protection. It received the International Institute for the Conservation of Energy's annual award in 1990 for
    promoting energy efficiency through planning. In the same year, the United Nations gave Curitiba two environmental
    program awards for its innovative recycling and other environmental programs.

    Curitiba, a city of 1.6 million in southern Brazil, has become a world-recognized model of urban planning and
    environmental practices. Until recently, few people outside of Brazil had even heard of Curitiba (pronounced
    "koo-ree-CHEE-bah"), but today the city attracts delegations of politicians, planners, environmentalists, and
    journalists seeking to discover how, in a Third World region where cities are suffering from overpopulation and
    poverty, Curitiba is known as a "city that works."

    Curitiba's population started growing in the 1950's, a trend which was accentuated in the late 1960's as
    industrialization took off. For many years the city had a 7 percent annual
    growth rate - its population was 400,000 in 1970. Now its growth rate is 2.3%, while the surrounding cities
    are growing at up to 11% annually.

    Since young maverick architects and engineers took over City Hall in the 1970s, Curitiba has tried new ways
    to tackle such urban ills as illiteracy, homelessness, transportation, government service shortcomings,
    unemployment, pollution and poverty. Curitiba is still a Third World city, with at least 10% of its 1.6
    million people living in slums of corrugated tin-and-wood shanties. And its innovations--from "trade
    villages" to schoolbooks written by the mayor--were made gradually. But the city now stands as a model for
    urban planners, and mayors from around the world have visited Curitiba to learn from its experiments.

    Mr. Jaime Lerner (currently the Parana governor) was Curitiba's mayor in the early 1970's, and during his 12
    years in that capacity, he put his skills as a city planner into practice: adopting radical urban policy and
    laying the foundations for the present-day Curitiba layout. When Mr. Lerner first became mayor, he and his
    staff learned from the failures of Brasilia in fashioning a city plan which anticipated
    present-day problems such as motorization and pollution.

    The mayor decided on a new master plan to de-congest the downtown and save the old houses there. The first
    pedestrian street in Brazil was created in 1972 - overnight, to avoid any opposition by merchants.
    Children's mural-drawing sessions have been a feature of Saturday morning on the mall ever since.

    Planners decided that the Transport Network was to determine Urban Form.

    The transit system organizes the urban area. Growth is directed along linear corridors that
    serve to control the spread of the city. There is no infrastructure outside them. They have
    the highest density, with a transit route and a bus terminal, and higher speed streets to either side.

    The bus system has a single fare. There is a feeder bus, a dedicated line bus, an express bus and a circle bus.
    Improvement of the bus system is a top priority. Examples are the new "tube" disembarkation stations
    at the bus entrance level and the new system of ticketing before entering the bus.

    There is a 50-second headway at peak times, and 2 to 3 minutes at other times at the central station.

    Curitiba's buses are privately-owned by ten companies, and managed by a quasi-public company. With this
    public-private collaboration, public sector concerns, such as safety, accessibility, and efficiency, are combined
    with private sector goals, such as low maintenance and operating costs. The bus companies receive no subsidies;
    instead all mass transit money collected goes to a fund and companies are paid on a distance travelled basis.

    By 1989, Curitiba's bus system accounted for 70 percent of total weekday trips in the city.
    Curitiba's buses carry 50 times more passengers than they did 20 years ago, but people spend only about 10
    percent of their yearly income on transport. As a result, despite the second highest per capita car ownership
    rate in Brazil (one car for every three people), Curitiba's gasoline use per capita is 30 percent below that
    of eight comparable Brazilian cities. Other results include negligible emissions levels, little congestion,
    and an extremely pleasant living environment.

    A new "bi-articulated" bus, introduced in December, 1992, is a form of rapid bus operating on the outside
    high-capacity lanes. Bi-articulated buses - the largest in the world - are actually three buses attached by
    two articulations, and are capable of carrying 270 passengers.

    The bi-articulated bus, developed and adapted in Curitiba, utilizes five modular tube stations for boarding.
    Curitiba introduced these buses as an intermediate alternative to a light rail train, which
    Curitiba plans to introduce sometime in the future to run along the structural arteries,
    utilizing the existing exclusive rights of way for the express buses.

    The Master Plan established the guiding principle that mobility and land use can not be disassociated with
    each other if the city's future design is to succeed. Curitiba's officials created a zoning and land-use
    policy that requires mixed- use high-density development along the structural arteries in order to
    create the necessary population to support profitable public transport use. Thus, residential development
    focuses along the arteries, with essential services such as water, sewage, light, telephones, and public
    transportation provided.

    Further residential development occurs in four designated zones, in which all
    development must occur within close proximity of bus routes. An industrial park (called the "Industrial City")
    was built in 1973 in the western part of the city and plays an important part in the local economy.

    Public facilities have been built along arterial roads where buses run, one prime example of which is Citizen
    Centers. There are a total of eight in the inner city, of the type depicted in the photograph below.

    Each center has public utilities such as water and electricity, as well as a range of public services
    including police, municipal branch offices, job centers, social security offices and libraries, and also a
    roofed multi-purpose sports ground, sports room and conference rooms; all of these can be utilized either free
    of charge or for next to nothing. Many public buildings, including citizen centers, are made principally from
    steel and transparent building materials, giving them an attractive appearance, but at the same time, keeping
    construction costs down. Note that major hospitals and nursing facilities are also located along roads where
    buses run, making for easy access via bus.

    Due to ongoing increases in the city's population, Curitiba's bus system is expected to reach maximum capacity
    in the near future. As a way of offsetting this problem, there are plans to divert a highway running north-south
    through Curitiba to the suburbs, and convert the original highway route into a new monorail-based transport system.
    The plan is to be co-financed by the national government (60%), Curitiba government (20%) and private sector (20%).

    Land use controls target two basic parameters: the land use type and the density of development. The four basic
    land usecategories are residential, commercial, industrial, and services. Allowable densities vary in relation to
    available transportation. Along most structural routes, buildings can have a total floor area of up to six times the
    plot size. On lower capacity roads that are well served by public transportation, the city permits floor space up to
    four times plot size. The permitted ratio of floor space to plot size decreases with the distance a land site is
    from public transportation.

    The land use density controls encourage a shift of development activity from the central city to and around the
    structural axes. This locates high density residential and commercial in the same areas and matches density to the
    availability of public transport. This eases traffic and human congestion in the central city. Planners converted
    wide central avenues in the central city into open air pedestrian malls and walkways. These malls and walkways
    reinforce the city center as a pleasant locale where pedestrians have priori

    The experiences of Curitiba have been the focus of attention from both within and outside Brazil, and have brought
    about a large number of imitative local governments. There have been examples of individual systems developed in
    Curitiba, such as pedestrian precincts and dedicated bus lanes, being successfully reapplied elsewhere. Curitiba
    officials emphasize the importance of balance in the overall project and state that "the Curitiba city plan may not
    necessarily work elsewhere unless individual sectors are fully inter-linked."

    From the start the driving city vision was to be the “Ecological Capital of Brazil”. This vision included a huge
    park acquisition program, protection of heritage buildings, prioritization of pedestrians over cars, the provision
    of cycleways linking the parks, and a massive expansion of the public transport system. Today, parks and city squares
    cover 18% of the city area, there are 170 kms of cycleways linking them, a transferrable development right incentive
    is ensuring heritage building preservation so the city “does not lose its memory”, and the statistic of 25,000 public
    transport trips/day in 1974 has increased to 2.1 million today – 75% of all trips. And this despite Curitiba having a
    car for every 3 persons - the highest car ownership/capita in Brazil. Parking is prohibited in large parts
    of the inner city, and whole streets and huge central areas are now dedicated pedestrian precincts.

    In everything planned in Curitiba, the quality of life is emphasized.

    It is a green city of parks, and because of its unusual structure, city residents can move around swiftly,
    whether by automobile or on an extremely efficient bus system.

    It is a "rechargeable" city that recycles, in the words of Mayor Jaime Lerner, and it encourages even its poorest
    residents to participate in cultural and economic activities.

    Recent opinion polls show that a large majority of Curitiba's citizens say there is no place they would rather live.
    Working within the limits of a Third World city budget, Curitiba's administrators have succeeded in making the city a
    highly livable place with a series of simple, low-cost innovations that are applicable to both Third and First World

    I bet life in Curitiba is every bit as interesting as life in Singapore.

  15. #30
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    New York City


    Quote Originally Posted by ddny
    Design wise...NYC has done some things right, but it has also done alot of things wrong. It's a "beautiful mess" as one architect said about New York.

    I believe San Francisco and Chicago has better urban planning/design than NYC in the U.S.
    Don't forget Washington.

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