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Exploring the 'Finesse of the Avenue'

In his fourth "place-decoding" essay from France, Chuck Wolfe illustrates how a traditional placemaking intervention is especially powerful when underlying urban fundamentals align.
October 9, 2014, 10am PDT | Charles R. Wolfe | @crwolfelaw
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Writing in the Huffington Post from Cassis, near Marseille, Wolfe explains how a Saturday street closure of the Avenue Victor Hugo combines several factors to create what he terms a "'finesse of the avenue'...a noteworthy confluence of people -- both natives and tourists -- of physical aspects of the urban environment, and of the human senses of sight and sound."

Using comparative photography, he shows several images of the Avenue with and without cars, and stresses an underlying, intuitive dynamic of comfort and scale. When the Avenue is in pedestrian mode, "inherent and longstanding qualities of the place re-emerge for the people."

Communicating and understanding this "finesse of the avenue" he notes, can be as valuable as thought leaders' views about successful urban attributes.  

He summarizes how some places—like the Avenue Victor Hugo—present elements that combine in unique, empowering ways:

Places with the look and feel of Avenue Victor Hugo, if interpreted in context, illustrate successful attributes of urban public spaces, and help define the infrastructure and services that cities should equitably provide. It's a gut-level, observational process, which every one of us has the means to carry out, to better understand the underlying make-up of successful city life.

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Published on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 in Huffington Post
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