Strong Towns videos let you see the cityscape anew

I’m a little late to the party on this but have just stumbled across the See It Differently TV video commentaries that Chuck Marohn started making last year both to lavish praise on and skewer some of the efforts by cities to create more livable spaces.

If you read Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of American Cities” back in the ’60s or ’70s, you’ll get a kick out of seeing Marohn’s video camera capture everything from “an apocalypse of bridges and overpasses” in Chester, Pa., to the austere back side of a Powell, Wyo., elementary school that “is like saying to the neighborhood, ‘Up yours.’”

He got especially worked up in Chester, where decorations on lampposts on an otherwise drab street made no sense to him. He introduces the topic this way: “I want to show just how messed up our thinking is” and goes on to surmise that we put up fancy lighting poles thinking that “somehow if the lights are nice and decorative we’ll feel better about the crap we’re driving through.”

Marohn is a Brainerd-area civil engineer, consultant and sometimes acerbic critic of how American cities have gone into hock to build infrastructure they subsequently can’t pay for. He espouses his thinking through his non-profit organization Strong Towns, aimed at encouraging cities to maintain their financial strength and be livable.

He’s not always critical. The post today is a 3 1/2-minute video of a 250-foot long one-way street in Raleigh, N.C., that he’s surprised to find appealing, partly because of the way the parking and the pavement slow down traffic.

If you want some illustrations of how everything from street design to park schemes can work or go awry, check it out. You might start seeing details differently as you drive around your favorite haunts. Marohn says via email that he’s got a new camera and hopes to up the frequency soon.

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