My current blog is epistem.ink. This one is here just for archival purposes.

Equalitarian Beauty

There are many cities in which you can have a beautiful home, but something that always struck me as “sad” is that, in many ways, having a beautiful home often comes at the expense of others.

For example, a penthouse on top of a New York Skyscraper looks beautiful, but it looks beautiful precisely because it’s sitting on top of the city, it’s sitting “on top” of dozens of other apartments with increasingly worse and bleaker views; Unvisited by the sun, filled with the dreadful street smells characteristic of sewers feed by millions of digestive tracts mixed with the perfume of gasoline motors.

There’s nothing beautiful about living on the 8th floor of a 30 story building surrounded by other 30 story buildings.

On the other hand, in cities such as those on the coast of the Iberian peninsula, most apartments have some nice “flavor” to them. You can live in a (4th floor) penthouse and you will enjoy more sun and overlook pretty-looking balconies, maybe a good view of this or that monument.

Penthouse in Seville

But you can also live down below and enjoy the vibe of paved streets, cafes, and the hustle and bustle of the city.

(Nearby) street-level apartment in Lisbon

That’s not to say all apartments in a city like Barcelona are beautifully placed. But you could put me in a random apartment in Barcelona and even with my moderately high standards, I’d be happy with my views 1/3rd of the time.

Conversely, choosing a random apartment in NYC or Paris would probably land me in a dreary environment 99/100 of the time.

These aesthetically equalitarian cities are made up of a series of hills and valleys, buildings are kept small, “central” areas in the valleys, and hilltops are reserved for monuments of olden days: castles and cathedrals.

Live higher up and you have nicer views of the city, but less hustle and bustle on the street, live in the valleys, and you trade-off for being close to the crowds and waking up to see pretty historical buildings (you might even be living in one).

Their foils are on flat ground, with buildings edging every higher up, blocking out the sun and sights for anyone living below, including their own denizens.

Aesthetically equalitarian cities also seem to generate some sort of positive feedback loop of seeing other nice-looking apartments, noting that yours is also seen, and wanting to show off with a pretty sight. Thus a lot of buildings have many windows, wide balconies, and a myriad of flowers and decorations dangling on the edges of both.

I’m no architect or urban planner, and I have no idea how much of this is explicit design or just random chance. I also don’t know how much others care about the “sights” they’re seeing from their homes. But I must admit that I take extra pleasure in having a beautiful view while knowing most of my co-residents are enjoying their own uniquely beautiful overlook of the shared endeavor we call city.

Published on: 2022-12-01










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