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What is a beautiful place?

The UK has something called the National Model Design Code. The purpose of this national code is to provide guidance to local authorities and communities on the production of policies that promote successful design. More specifically, it is intended to help people determine what “good quality design looks like in their area.”

So as part of this, the code wades into subjective things like beauty, attractiveness, and distinctiveness (see above chart). This is an interesting discussion — and a topic in this recent Monocle radio episode — because, at the end of the day, is there really such a thing as universal beauty? Can we all agree on what the most beautifully designed places in the world are?

At the same time, and architect Félicie Krikler points this out in the Monocle episode, there are countless examples of ugly places that are still wildly successful by all other urban measures. Is that okay or should they also be beautiful? And if budgets are tight (they always are), is it better to be a beautiful building or to be a more affordable one? Uh oh.

There is also a temporal consideration. Sometimes the things that were once thought to be ugly are now actually thought to be quite beautiful. Beauty can take time, and places sometimes take time to settle in and find their best uses. This is something that I have written about a few times before on the blog.

All of this being said, I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of beautiful places. And I don’t think we talk enough about it. Too often we get hung up on esoteric planning stuff, even though so many of the places that we love would never meet these same tests. However subjective as it may be, more beauty is rarely a bad thing.

Image: National Model Design Code

1 Comment so far

  1. doug pollard

    Yes of course it is virtually impossible to agree on what is beautiful but the Living Community Challenge did attempt to establish some criteria by which they could judge how beautiful community was. This is excerpted from their standard an imperative for gaining credit in the beauty petal

    • A major installation for every 500 residents • A minor installation for every 100 residents

    Meaning if you count sculptures you can determine beauty not so sure I agree.. what about you? Has torontos public art program made the city beautiful?

    Like

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