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C200: The Details Make The Difference

2011 March 18
by Alan Durning

< Broadway Market, Capitol Hill, Seattle; photo: Dan Bertolet >

Cities are among the most useful developments of all time. They give us access to the diverse talents of hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people. They let us choose from a richness of economic, educational, cultural, and recreational offerings. They are, in a word, civilized.

But cities don’t all work well, nor do neighborhoods or even blocks. Where cities are concerned, the details make all the difference.

Well-planned and well-executed city building improves our lives and, as a little noticed side effect, eases many of modernity’s greatest challenges. Good cities lessen our dependence on cars. They breathe new life into neighborhoods. They revitalize democracy. They make the public realm safe again. They cultivate thriving economies and dampen public health menaces like car crashes and sedentary living. They bridge the widening gaps that divide classes and race, strengthen national security, slow catastrophic climate change, and even protect the vanishing remnants of native wildlands. They also conserve that most precious of nonrenewable resources—our own time.


Alan Durning is the founder and executive director of the Sightline Institute.