Love of Place

Happy Valentine’s Day! I feel obligated to post a little love today, and there are countless connections and revelations surrounding this celebration that relate to our Cities. Like cities, romance is complex, messy, not so tangible thing. Just try to define the entirety of romance or city in a single sentence.

First, I want to express my love to my Valentine, Michelle. Among all of her many talents and skills, she makes the posting and contents of this blog possible. She is also the one that has followed me across the country in the pursuit urbanism. She has shared her perspective on these adventures in the past under “Married to a New Urbanist.” I would not be complete without my Valentine.

Cities and Love go hand and hand. Both can be amazing, vibrant, and mind blowing. They also can crash and burn into decay and ruin. They can make us feel good, and they can make us sick. Both have thousands of books written and experts lecturing on how to make it better or improved.

Love, like places, are born in the heart. You cannot buy love, and you cannot buy a place. One might say that love is in the eye of the beholder. I would also say that place is in the eye of the beholder. Some people like to live in towns, and other prefer the open plains. Some like to drive, others only want to walk. The great thing about cities, is that there is someplace for everyone.

Over the past few years, there are several organizations flying the urbanism flag that are promoting a one-size fits all agenda. They seem to have forgotten the basics to urbanism. They knowingly, or unknowingly are following a path away from love, and demanding a monoculture of place.

One of the many stories in the rich history of Valentine’s day comes out of a decree from Emperor Claudius II. According to Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. 

I share this story because many of my urban friends see the world black and white: urban and sprawl. They believe that all places need to be dense urban places, and want to outlaw sprawl. This is an injustice and contrary to the urban transect and charters of their organizations.

There are places and projects that are meaningful, lasting, and sustainable, but they are not dense urban, transit rich places. Do not throw the cupid out with the bath water. These places are loved, and should be explored through the eye of the beholder.