September 5th, 2013. 5 days!
It's more than "physical attraction"
Walking through the city this weekend with my in-laws-to-be, I took them to many of my favorite haunts (read: urban design loves) - I knew it would likely be the last times I saw many of these places before I left for China and I wanted to "show off" some of the best that this city has to offer. Of course, Washington Square Park was on this short list. Walking through this always animated place, I pointed out that one of the things I loved most about the park was the various activities it hosted. The crazy guy dressed like an indistinct type of bird selling some oddball product; the kids playing in the fountain (and the acrobatic duo performing their tricks when the fountain is drained during the winter); and of course, the classical pianist playing a *grand* piano in the middle of the park (my mother-in-law-to-be of course wondered how it got there!). Because walking through any city with me invariably turns into a mini urban design lecture, I couldn't resist this "teachable moment." I explained to them that this place worked - and was one of my faves in the city - not just because of the physical "affordances" it provided (the fountain, the benches, lush trees, the green lawn, etc.) but also because of the programming it offered and how it was managed and maintained. As I've said before, it's not enough to build it and assume people will come. Like "love," the physical only gets you so far. "Chemistry" is also related to the emotional connection we have with another person. In this same way, great places aren't just a function of about what's in them, but also who's in them and what they're doing in them. The built environment is only one leg of the urban design stool. Programming and maintenance are also key to activating spaces and curating great places!