October 04, 2010

Learning from European Cities: An Introduction

by: Taz Loomans


It’s good to be back in the Valley of the Sun!  I had a fantastic time in Europe and learned a great deal about how dense urban centers work.  I’d like to share what I learned over the coming weeks on Mondays in my Learning from European Cities Series.  It’s true that Phoenix will never be and shouldn’t be a reproduction of a European city.  We have very unique characteristics here, as well as a completely different climate and landscape, land availability, and cultural differences among other factors.  However, there are a few universal things that work well in the cities I visited (Brussels, Berlin and Bruges) that we could definitely learn from here in Phoenix.  I’m going to explore some of these universal principles over the coming weeks on this series and I hope to hear your thoughts as well.

As an introduction, I think this photo, taken in Bruges, is a good representation of the overall topics I’ll be exploring in this series.  One is transportation, i.e., look at the multi-modal transportation that’s pictured here – bikes, walking, cars.  Not pictured, but widely available in the cities I visited, and included in the discussion will be transit.

Another topic I’ll write about is scale.  Look at the width of the street, how much of it is dedicated to cars and how much is dedicated to bikes, bike parking, and pedestrians.  Also in the scale discussion is the way buildings, storefronts and even the materials used on the streets and sidewalks are scaled to pedestrians rather than cars.  Speaking of the buildings, I’d like to talk about how cities I visited integrated history into the everyday urban experience.

I’ve spoken about propinquity in one of my newsletters before, but spending time in these European cities gave me a whole other perspective about this subject and I’ll tell you why.  A few other topics I’ll be touching upon will be the importance of green space within urban areas, the way European cities are designed for connectivity, and also the element of charm and how we could use some in Phoenix.

Good examples of sustainable urbanism are out there and I saw many of them in Europe.  Let’s find ways that these examples can be implemented, integrated in and improved upon here in Phoenix.

Photo Credit:  Photo of a typical street in the center of Bruges.  Photo by the author.

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3 Responses

  1. Doug Nielsen says:

    This is great Taz! I am looking forward to your upcoming discussions on this topic. I lived/traveled in Europe for about 4 months in ’06 and came away with a new view on global/regional/local connectivity as well as a passion for the pedestrian scale.

    • Taz Loomans says:

      That is so cool that you lived there for a while, you must have gotten a really good feel for the cities and how they work. I don’t see why we can’t have the same pedestrian-oriented vibe and experience if not everywhere in Phoenix than in particular nodes.

  2. […] post is a continuation of my series Learning from European Cities and I’d like to talk about the role of green space in urban life.  In my past visits to […]

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