Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The services of Main Street

Cities are complex systems, and each arises as part of a larger system of cities. Cities are internally organized and connected to and concerned with the rural areas that give them sustenance. They are decorated with monumental buildings that embody the ideals and structure of the local culture. They are centers of human living, energized with exchange. The Main Streets of our era play a crucial role in organizing cities along all of these dimensions. A way to begin to look at Main Streets is to consider the way in which the street serves these many functions. Is it connecting the parts of the city? Does it connect to other cities and to the countryside? Does it display the city's monuments? Does it help to energize interpersonal exchange? Is it serving the whole population of the city, or only part? Does it carry out its duties with panache? These questions, drawn from research on the history of cities, offer us an excellent metric for thinking about the cities to be visited in this project.

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