Much more than routes for traffic, streets are a cornerstone of public space in the city. Beauty may not be the most significant factor for these spaces, but it does increase the chance that people will visit and linger. Its importance came to mind while reading Curbed’s list of the 11 most beautiful streets in the US. While its debatable whether these are in fact the “most beautiful” streets in the country (read the comments), the article does service by underlining the great value that streets can play as public space.
What do these beautiful streets have in common? First and foremost: Human scale. The streets are relatively narrow, the buildings are quite low and the blocks are fairly short. This isn’t to say that tall buildings and the human scale are incompatible, but they do require conscious design solutions at street level. Second: Sticky street edges. Every one of these beautiful streets is lined with active and varied facades that make walking a pleasure. Beyond aesthetics, active facades have been found to support social interaction and even foster trust. Looking closely at Curbed’s choices, you could also argue that active facades reflect local characteristics and are actually a street-level celebration of local culture. Third: Street trees and greenery. We’ve written about the health and well-being benefits of urban greenery before, but these important features also contribute to urban beauty. Countless other features contribute to great streets, and each city adds its own spice at street-level. However, city-makers seeking a recipe for street success in new projects and redevelopments can regularly count on these three features. Just add time.
Photo by Flickr User .distracted