Philip Bess: Good cities are like pizzas

April 21, 2008 at 9:37 pm

During his lecture last week, Philip Bess mentioned a tasty metaphor for good urban living.

Comparing a city to a pizza is the idea of Leon Krier, whom Bess calls the most influential traditional urbanist of our time. As Bess says in his book, “Till We Have Built Jerusalem”:

A neighborhood is to the larger city what a slice of pizza is to the whole pie: a part that contains within itself the essential qualities and elements of the whole. In the case of a city made of neighborhoods, this means that a neighborhood contains within walkable proximity to one another places to live, work, play, learn and worship.

Within the legal boundaries of a postwar suburb, by contrast, the elements of the “pizza” are physically separated and at some distance from one another — as if the crust is here, the sauce over there, the cheese someplace else, and the pepperoni way out yonder.

Bess was careful to point out that such pizza-like, mixed-use neighborhoods do not eliminate the use of cars or public transportation. Maybe you live in one neighborhood and work in the next. But mixed-use neighborhoods do eliminate the necessity of driving for every single need that arises.

One of the panel members said that the average suburbanite makes 14 automobile trips every day. Imagine living in a neighborhood in which you could cut that number in half. That would allow you to not only save money on gas, but also to stay more connected to your own neighborhood — and your own neighbors.

— drawing by Leon Krier, from Philip Bess’ “Till We Have Built Jerusalem”

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Entry filed under: Architecture, Downtown, Jon Swerens, Urbanism. Tags: , , , .

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