What makes a city attractive?
A provocative new video featuring Alain de Botton says beauty in urban settings must be objective and to argue otherwise is a danger to our quality of life. Most of us would probably be content to say that beauty is subjective. There may be a measure of symmetry or scale in what makes a person, object, or landscape attractive, but ultimately, beauty’s not inherent to the thing. It’s in the eye of the beholder.
“Cities are a big deal,” narrates de Botton. “We pretty much all have to live in them. We should try hard to get them right” in part, by a more “scientific” approach to what makes cities pretty or ugly.
The philosopher, founder of “London’s The School of Life” lays out six qualities of attractive cities and he has no problem pointing out which cities meet these standards (Paris, New York, Barcelona) and which ones don’t (Phoenix, Munich, but also, other cities all over the world).
What’s the problem in those huge urban places? Lack of political willpower, and behind that, an intellectual confusion about what beauty is.
The places tourists go, de Botton argues, is a measure of how beautiful we find those places.
There is such a thing as objective beauty, says de Botton. The proof? Tourism statistics. The places people go for leisure, he argues, is a measure of how beautiful we find those places.