Inside David Byrne's Livable City

Using a mishmash of highlights from cities around the world, musician and artist David Byrne talks about his personal vision of a perfect, livable city.

September 14, 2009, 10:00 AM PDT

By Judy Chang


"A 'livable city' means vastly different things for many people. In Hong Kong it might mean that your family is in a comfortable apartment while you play in the exciting mercantile world in a glass tower overlooking the harbor. In Dallas livability might mean that you live near an expressway that isn't jammed up, at least not all the time, and your car runs most days. For some it might mean super fast Wi-Fi, the possibility of lucky and lucrative business opportunities and plenty of strip clubs. If that's what rocks your boat then try Houston, though to me that city, oil money made physically manifest, is my worst nightmare.

Here are some things that make a city livable for me:

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 and I'd be happy if there were a lot fewer of them in New York. It would be a pain in the neck for a lot of drivers, but unless they can be hidden underground, as they are often in Japan, lots and parking structures are simply dead zones, which hurt the businesses around them. In Japan parking structures are skinny, no wider than a large car, and a robotic system files the cars away. The Italian cities of Florence, Modena, Ferrara, where parking is pretty much relegated to the fringes of the town, are vibrant, though their appeal to pedestrians has turned some of them into tourist hubs."

Friday, September 11, 2009 in The Wall Street Journal

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