Many years ago I made it to San Francisco on a trip. It is an amazing city in terms of stunning architecture, giant bridges, interesting cultural areas and very original scenes. The geography and topography are unlike any other major city in North America.
San Francisco has very big hills throughout its whole area. This creates very steep streets. Driving down these streets is nerve-wracking when one is not used to them. You come to a cross street and you cannot see the street below. It is like you are approaching a cliff.
One of the effects of these steep streets is that the sidewalks get very hard to walk up. So certain streets consist not of sidewalks, but steps. It was absolutely amazing to see these steps that only the physically fit could, or should tackle. And that an intoxicated person should avoid at all costs.
Eixample is a district of the Spanish city of Barcelona, that lies between the old city and the surrounding small towns. The district was built as an extension (hence the name “Eixample”) when Barcelona started to grow during the middle of the 19th century. The 7.5 square km district is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and octagonal city blocks – rectangular blocks with the corners cut off, which are distinctive for Barcelona. This was the visionary, pioneering design by Spanish urban planner Ildefons Cerdà, who considered traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation in coming up with his characteristic octagonal blocks.
Cerdà’s central aim was to overcome social problems by using quadrangular blocks of a standard size, with strict building controls to ensure that they were built up on only two sides, to a limited height, leaving a shady square or garden in between. This recreational open space with open sides to the blocks was to guarantee the houses the maximum amount of sun, light and ventilation. The angled corners allowed the streets to broaden at every intersection making for greater visibility, and fluid traffic in all directions. Cerdà had steam trams in mind, and it was its long turning radius which determined the angle of the corners of the buildings. Trams were never installed, and the city planners unfortunately ignored many of his other provisions.
Cerda wanted housing blocks to be orientated NW-SE to ensure all apartments received sunshine during the day. Each district would be of twenty blocks, containing all the community shops and services, and each block were to have at least 800 square meters of gardens. Cerda’s idealized use of urban space was scarcely achieved. The blocks went up to much more than the planned heights, and in practice all the blocks have been enclosed, with very few inner gardens surviving. Most of the inner courtyards today are occupied by car parks, workshops and shopping centers. The streets were narrower – only one of the two diagonal avenues was carried out – the inhabitants were of a higher class than the mixed composition dreamed of by Cerdà. The grid pattern with its distinctive octagonal blocks, however, remains as a hallmark of Barcelona’s Eixample.
Over the past few years the city has begun trying to implement Cerdà’s idea for green public spaces behind the buildings. When a block is vacated because of the relocation of a business, the city takes up the block and redesigns it with parks and open spaces. The ultimate goal is to create one patio-garden for every nine blocks, but its unlikely that so many will become available in the near future.
Being from Winnipeg, one of the flattest cities in the world, hilly cities have always intrigued me. I always thought San Francisco was the U.S. city with the most hills, but I discovered that Pittsburgh is even hillier than the California city.
The city of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, the United States, is located over an unruly terrain of hills, hollows, valleys and three intersecting rivers. Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, when Pittsburgh was growing as a coal and steel town, factory workers built houses in the hills rising above the flat riverbanks that were lined with factories. In order to commute to work, city officials and residents built staircases along the hillsides, originally of wood and later with concrete that ran up and down throughout the city.
Revered American journalist Ernie Pyle famously wrote about the city in 1937:
Pittsburgh is undoubtedly the cockeyedest city in the United States. Physically, it is absolutely irrational. It must have been laid out by a mountain goat… I’ve flown over it, and driven all around it, and studied maps of it, and I hardly know one end of Pittsburgh from the other… There’s just one balm — people who live here can’t find their way around, either.
Many of the city’s neighborhoods are steeply sloped with two-lane roads. More than a quarter of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods make reference to “hills,” “heights,” or other similar indicators by name.
The city has some 712 sets of outdoor pedestrian stairs with 44,645 treads and 24,090 vertical feet including hundreds of paper streets composed entirely of stairs and many other steep streets with stairs for sidewalks. Many provide vistas of the Pittsburgh area while attracting hikers and fitness walkers.
|• Rank||US: 62nd|
|• Density||5,540/sq mi (2,140/km2)|
|• Urban||1,733,853 (US: 27th)|
|• Metro||2,360,867 (US: 22nd)|
|• CSA||2,659,937 (US: 20th)|
|• GMP||$131.3 billion (23rd)|
The residents would need rattlesnake proof fences and dust screens on the windows to filter out sand.
A couple hundred miles to the northeast is Paige, Arizona. Right on the edge of Lake Powell.
The changing skyline. The Hudson Yards development will add 5 huge new skyscrapers to the skyline. The main tower will be 30 Hudson Yard. It will have one of the most spectacular outdoor observation decks in the world. The building is scheduled for completion in 2019.
Heights don’t scare some people. Is that guy wearing yoga pants?