David Byrne Dreams of a Perfect City


Pace Wilderstein via Wallpaper

I see the school and the houses where the kids are.
Places to park by the fac'tries and buildings.
Restaunts and bar for later in the evening.
Then we come to the farmlands, and the undeveloped areas.
And I have learned how these things work together.

From the Big Country, Talking Heads
Anyone who ever listened to the Talking Heads' Big Country or Nothing but Flowers realizes that David Byrne knows a thing or two about design and urbanism. Now he puts it in prose in the Wall Street Journal, in an essay titled A Talking Head Dreams of a Perfect City
David Byrne

Richard Florida did some editing for his Creative Class blog, whittling down the salient points; I whittle it down further:

Size - A city can't be too small. Size guarantees anonymity ...The generous attitude towards failure that big cities afford is invaluable--it's how things get created ...

Parking - To be honest, available parking doesn't matter to me. Parking lots and structures are dead real estate--they bring no life into a city ... parking structures are simply dead zones, which hurt the businesses around them.

Mixed use - A perfect city is where different things are going on, relatively close to each other, at different times of the day. A city isn't a strip of hotels and restaurants on a glorious beach; it's a place where there are restaurants and hotels, but also little stores, fashion boutiques, schools, houses, offices, temples and banks. The healthy neighborhood doesn't empty out at 6 p.m ... In my perfect city there would always be something going on nearby.

The perfect city isn't static. It's evolving and ever changing, and its laws and structure allow that to happen. Neighborhoods change, clubs close and others open, yuppies move in and move out--as long as there is a mix of some sort, then business districts and neighborhoods stay healthy even if they're not what they once were. My perfect city isn't fixed, it doesn't actually exist, and I like it that way.

Good stuff in the Wall Street Journal , but then we always knew what Byrne thought about suburbia:

I wouldn't live there if you paid me.

I couldn't live like that, no siree!

I couldn't do the things the way those people do.

I couldn't live there if you paid me to.

Tags: Music | Urban Life | Urban Planning