You can say that the urban fabric of Paris (and indeed all great cities) is composed of some basic elements: first are the famous civic buildings from the travel book checklist: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre; and second, the townhouses and small scale urban buildings in between, typically with cafes and stores at street level. Then there are the variations on public space, ranging in character from the monumental green gardens of Luxemborg and the hardscaped plaza at the entrance of the Louvre, to more intimate spaces, as in the lively outdoor rooms of the Latin Quarter. Finally, lets not forget to count the great pedestrian streets: avenues for dining and shopping like Champes Elysee, the bridges that receive the breeze of the Seine, the continuous sidewalk connections between one’s front door and the day’s daily coffee and bread.
What if Paris could only keep one of these elements? Which is the more essential to Paris’ identity? Which is more important to the visitors who make Paris a top travel destination in the world? Imagine that the French Ministry of Transportation was to reduce either the great monuments or the great neighborhoods to parking lots to accommodate increasing auto ownership. Imagine that Corbusier’s plan for Paris had been taken seriously.
My guess is that even the ever-present Eiffel Tower is actually a small part of the lives of the millions of resident Parisians. My guess is that newlyweds would still go to Paris from throughout the world to sit in cafes and wonder upward at the cast iron balconies considering what life was like in one of the world’s most liveable cities — even if Paris lacked the Arc D’Triumph.
To choose between public spaces and streets is more difficult, but I doubt that the parks and plazas of Paris would be used as much, or at all, if they required a freeway commute to reach.
Paris does not have to choose between its dignified urban residences, inspiring civic buildings, great streets and cherished public spaces. Even secondary elements such as the subway system or bicycle network, are in place and the city is committed to them. But as urbanists in Miami we must prioritize. To achieve high-quality urbanism of this kind, as has not been built as the norm in the US in one hundred years, requires an education process, a reprioritisation of public funding, a hundred instructive meetings with both the public and the responsible agencies.
The latest economic downturn is making us choose between these four elements of great cities, not because we haven’t any longer the resources to build them all, but because the budgets that would otherwise be spent on planning, education, and involvement, on the dialogue about urbanism as a choiceworthy endeavor, has been reduced, and we must focus our energies. Consider this ranking: great streets, dignified fabric buildings, proud public spaces, and monumental civic buildings.
The popular dialogue in Miami concerning these four elements seems to value the reverse order. Starchitect new buildings (the stadium, Arsht Center, etc.) and experimental forms of landscape architecture (Bicentennial Park) are most likely to be on the minds of the city and county commisioners. But the streets and buildings of our daily routine need, if only by virtue of being more plentiful items than the other two, far more consideration than they are currently given. If I take just one point home as an urbanist visiting Paris, it is that we should focus our effort to make Miami a truly liveable city by building high-quality, walkable, multi-modal streets with urban infill buildings that define the street as a place of shared activity — in the way of Paris.
Jason King, AICP is a Town Planner at Dover, Kohl and Partners Town Planners and has worked on numerous award winning city and regional plans .
CategoriesAccident Architecture bicycles bike lanes Bike Miami Days biking Biscayne Boulevard Brickell bus Climate Change Coconut Grove complete streets Downtown Miami FDOT High Speed Rail Metrorail Miami Miami-Dade County Miami-Dade Transit Miami 21 Miami Beach Museum Park News Parking Parks Pedestrian Pedestrians Pic o' the Day Planning Real Estate Development Rickenbacker Causeway Sprawl Streetcar Traffic Transit Transitography Transit Oriented Development Transportation Tri-Rail Uncategorized Urban Design Urban Development Boundary Urban Growth Urban Planning Walkability
South Florida Transportation
- Bike SoMi
- Emerge Miami
- Florida Bicycle Association
- Florida Department of Transportation
- Florida Greenbook Roadway Design Manual
- Green Mobility Network
- Miami Bike Report
- Miami-Dade BPAC
- Miami-Dade Expressway Authority
- Miami-Dade Transit
- Slow Bike Miami
- Spokes 'n' Folks
- State of Florida Bike/Ped Laws
- TACOLCY Bicycle Club
- The M-Path to Enlightenment
- The Miami Bike Scene
- Transit to MIA
- Tri-Rail (South Florida Regional Transportation Authority)
Transit Blogs and Resources
- Design New Haven
- Buildings and Food
- CTA Tattler
- Off the Kuff
- Portland Transport
- Welcome to the FastLane: The Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary
- City Transit Advocates
- public transit
- Human Transit
- Trains For America
- JACKSONVILLE TRANSIT
- Metro Library and Archive Transportation Headlines
- Greater Greater Washington
- The Overhead Wire
- Midwest High Speed Rail
- Spacing Wire • understanding the urban landscape
- Transit In Utah
- CoolTown Studios
- The Transport Politic
South Florida Blogosphere
- 305 Misadventures
- Beached Miami
- BRICKELL LIFE
- Buildings and Food
- Coconut Grove Grapevine
- Coral Gables
- Coral Gables Watch
- Dolce Miami
- Eye On Miami
- Hallandale Beach Blog
- Herald Watch
- HOMESTEAD IS HOME
- JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG
- Liam Crotty Photography
- Miami beach 411
- Miami Every Day Photo
- Miami Fever
- Miami For Change
- Miami Urbanist
- Michael Emilio
- Photography is Not a Crime
- REV Miami – Music, Art, Events, and Counter-Culture Magazine
- Riptide 2.0
- South Beach Hoosier
- South Florida Bike Coalition
- South Florida Daily Blog
- Urban City Architecture
- Urban Environment League
- View from Virginia Key
- What Miami
Planning and Design Resources
Subscribe via Email
- Mike Moskos on The road to immobility for older Miamians
- Carlos on Lost Vision? Miami-Dade Transit 40 Years On . . .
- Pili on Lost Vision? Miami-Dade Transit 40 Years On . . .
- Matthew Toro on Worth a Reminder: County Transportation Summit
- Ashley Jimenez on Sun-Rail & Florida’s High-Speed Rail Future
- xxs on Lost Vision? Miami-Dade Transit 40 Years On . . .
- Cities May Be Back, But Don't Forget About the Burbs May 22, 2013A review of June Williamson's new book reminds us that the need to retrofit suburbia is as urgent as ever, despite the ascendance of cities. Amanda Kolson Hurley explores the top five reasons 'why the suburbs are shaping up as the new frontier.' […]
- Is Congestion Pricing the Solution to San Francisco’s Traffic Woes? May 22, 2013A new report paints a grim picture of San Francisco’s traffic future. Without radical reductions in auto usage, the city’s downtown will be ‘mired in gridlock.’ Is a controversial congestion pricing scheme the solution? […]
- Why Is it Hard to Find Places to Ride Out a Tornado in Oklahoma? May 22, 2013You might be surprised to learn that in the area famously known as 'Tornado Alley', underground shelters and safe rooms are relatively rare. Several reasons, from physical to financial to cultural constraints, conspire to leave residents vulnerable. […]
- Will New Mayor Seize the Opportunity to Build a 'Truly Urban' L.A.? May 22, 2013The new mayor of Los Angeles is young, charismatic, and a champion of urbanism and smart growth. He should start using all these assets immediately to transform Los Angeles into the vibrant, transit-oriented city it can become, says Bill Fulton. […]
- New Jersey Drops VMT Fee for EV Fee May 22, 2013NJ legislation highlights the need to ensure that those who drive EVs pay their fair share of taxes to keep roads in good repair. A bill that would have charged a mileage fee for all vehicles was scrapped for a $50 flat registration fee for EVs. […]
- Envisioning a LEED-like Ratings System for Infrastructure May 22, 2013Bob Graves discusses the concept behind Envision, "a holistic framework for evaluating and rating the community, environmental, and economic benefits of all types and sizes of infrastructure projects." […]
- The Ups and Downs of the Bike Sharing Economy May 22, 2013What makes Capital Bikeshare, the largest such program in the U.S. with nearly 2000 bikes, a success? What are its shortcomings? Mohana Ravindranath investigates. […]
- Can Signage Change Perceptions About Disabilities? May 22, 2013With New York City's embrace, the dream of revamping the iconic blue-and-white handicapped symbol is becoming a reality. As NYC adopts "a more active representation of people with physical limitations," activists hope the change has a broader effect. […]
- To Stretch Strained Municipal Budgets, Build Smart May 22, 2013Utilizing 17 case studies, a new report from Smart Growth America examines the costs and benefits of competing development strategies. Any way you slice it, smart growth strategies are more financially prudent than building sprawl. […]
- Obama Could Tackle Climate Change on His Own; But Will He? May 22, 2013With a reluctant Congress unwilling to act, and the signs of a warming planet multiplying, the Editorial Board of The New York Times urges President Obama to utilize executive actions to address climate change. […]
- Cities May Be Back, But Don't Forget About the Burbs May 22, 2013
- An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.