❝ No matter what technology brings us, we will not want to be alone all the time. We want to get outside to be in public, to take risk of doing what only the real city can do – which is to energize and uplift and inspire us ❞
Why is it important to create inspiring places? Put simply, bricks and mortar, the space between, and nature have a profound effect on how we think and what we do. For better or worse cities shape our lives and help us to better understand the world we live in, and most importantly, inspirational places contribute to lifting the public spirit. Clearly we all understand the effects of uninspired places, there are many; the business park placed in the center of the city and surrounded by parking lots, boulevards so wide and congested that one ponders the purpose of walking and fears for their life to cross the road, and likened to Le Corbusier’s Radiant City plan, blocks of residential towers isolated from city streets and sidewalks. These and more are the many uninspired city killers.
The importance of making inspiring places in our cities is not a new idea. Today, however, their influence on human patterns have been scientifically measured to indicate that the character of a city and places within them greatly influence how we think and act. Collin Ellard states in, Places of the Heart, that (neuroscience) “…suggest that places influence feelings and that feelings influence decisions, the discoveries that show a profound intermingling of thought and feeling suggest that the extent to which these influences act to change what we do and who we are has been considerably underestimated, and suggest an even closer relationship between our inner nature and the structures and technologies that surround us.”
Our practice and observations world-wide inform us that people seek inspirational places and they have a profound impact on society and the economic well-being of cities. We think that inspiring places for society, and its economic sustainability are inseparable, and therefore, it is incumbent on us to embrace the cultivation of inspirational places.
A city’s most fundamental task is to bring people together. They present the opportunity for sharing, stimulate invention and promote expression. Too often they do the opposite, isolating us and forever tethering people to cars and away from each other. Cities remain the greatest opportunity for the provocation of ideas, and the best cities inspire us to go beyond and awaken our imagination. In this way, inspiring cities serve as a vehicle for culture, creativity and a transcendence of ideas. This begins by making inspirational places.
We understand that inspiration often happens spontaneously. It is important, however, to set a stage by creating places that provoke greater meaning, stimulate the imagination, bring nature into our lives, and evoke mindfulness. We begin by recognizing the extraordinary force that inspirational places have on a city’s livability, its inhabitants creativity and long-term productivity. Inspirational places are critically important to awaken us to new possibilities and lift the veil of ordinary experiences and perceived limitations.
Inspiring cities are inherently authentic and profoundly human. When I think of city-making principles that really matter I often recall those places that I’ve been personally inspired by; the humanism of Paris streets, the distinctiveness of Antoni Gaudi’s Catalan modernism on Barcelona, the authenticity of Piazza del Comune in Assisi, the tranquillity of St. James Park in London, the serendipitous placement of Paley Park in New York City, and the incredible humanity of the Rijal Alma in the Aseer. I am not alone in their influence on my thinking. Why do these inspiring places have such an impact on our collective memory? Because they enrich our mind, evoke clarity and amplify the human experience. These places evoke story, insight and emotion that demonstrate the important overlap between art, design, science and engineering. They help to define humanity. Being in their presence inspires and stimulates our senses, and connects us to a moment that seems to live in our mind forever.