Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
A BEAUTIFUL CITY CITY -- IS IT POSSIBLE?
WHAT IS it that makes a city beautiful? A look at the cities that are generally acknowledged as among the most beautiful shows that in point of location these cities fall into four classifications:
1. Cities whose location is clearly the determining factor for their much-praised beauty. Rio de Janeiro belongs in this category, as well as San Francisco, Colombo (capital of Ceylon), Istanbul, Naples, and Genoa. All are located along picturesque ocean bays, and most of them have a background of high-rising mountains. The high buildings of Copacabana Beach, the imposing bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, or the mosques of Istanbul -- all add to the magnificence of nature; but the Bay of Rio would still be a wonderful sight even if there were not a single building. It would really take an exceptional degree of incompetence in these environments to build a city that would be unattractive in its over-all appearance.
2. Cities whose fame is based in equal parts on their favourable location and their fine architecture. An example for this category would be ancient Pergamum where monumental palaces, temples, and altars were built on terraces which rose a thousand feet high on the steep acropolis; others are Venice and its Far Eastern counterpart, the tremendous city of Bangkok, the city of canals and temple towers; Salzburg and the old city of Dresden; Prague, the "Golden City", and Budapest. Vancouver on Canada's west coast may well have to be mentioned also; it is a spaciously designed green city, situated on an ocean bay against a background of snowcovered mountains.
3. Cities that are famous primarily for their layout or their buildings, but whose charm is favourably accented by nature. We might mention here ancient Athens and the old city of Hangchow; Rome and Florence, both in the past and today; Vienna and Bern, Amsterdam and Cologne, Copenhagen and Stockholm, New York and Washington. Hamburg and Zurich prove how effective a lake can be that extends into the centre of the city. Since the city of Brasília is devoid of all natural beauty, its designers created for it an artificial lake that is twenty-eight miles long.
4. Cities that have no natural assets at all, but are sightly nevertheless. We are thinking of ancient Babylon and Thebes, and in a

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