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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How the Shape of Your City Affects You

According to David Engwicht, author of Street Reclaiming, a city is a place to 'maximize exchange opportunities and minimize travel'.  'Exchanges' may be 'goods, friendship, knowledge, culture, work, or education'.   

'We choose to live in cities because exchanges are the real stuff of life'.  

It is undeniably interesting to walk down a rich and lively sidewalk scene and be enmeshed in the random and spontaneous things to hear and witness. It is generative to be exposed to variety.  

Since some space in cities must be free for movement of goods and people, not all space can be devoted to strictly exchange opportunities.  Cities must have both:  exchange spaces and movement spaces.  'The more space a city devotes to movement, the more the exchange space becomes diluted and scattered'.  A good example of this is in the image above.  You can see that walking from A-Z in the top drawing would take less time compared to walking from A-Z in the bottom drawing.  'The more dilute and scattered the exchange opportunities, the more the city begins to lose the very thing that makes it a city:  a concentration of exchange opportunities.  What makes a city efficient, and an exciting place to be, is this diversity and density of potential exchanges'.  

Cities have, therefore made it practice to combine exchange opportunities and movement by creating dual purpose spaces. 

So, why have we allowed Nashville to become a place that is so overly devoted to a single mode of transportation - the car - at the expense of lost exchange opportunities?  As I have questioned before, do you get much joy from sitting alone in your car???


Shade Parade is for the building of high quality well designed sidewalks in Nashville.  

One concern I often hear is that this goal is going to be expensive.  And, the quotes are expensive for the projects we are working on (Bowling Av, then Woodmont, then Hillsboro Pk…)

But, isn't building more roads expensive, too?  Do we want, as a city, to devote more space to roads?  Knowing that building more space for vehicles equals less space for exchange.  In regards to cost, there could be economies of scale built in to refurbishing of roads to create sidewalks at the same time.  This could be a way to save as the equipment and workers are already in place. 

The focus on the car has turned the dual function of many streets in Nashville to a single function - that of movement (and high speed movement at that).  


'Corridors in a house, which can only be used for movement, are often referred to as wasted space.  They are considered a waste because what we value about a house is not the movement between rooms but the activities facilitated by the rooms'.

Sources:  Street Reclaiming  By David Engwicht

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