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David Byrne’s Perfect City

by C. Ross Jam on September 16, 2009

Yes that David Byrne. The one from the Talking Heads. It’s not really a perfect city, but a list of qualities that would exist in his perfect city.

Obviously as a world class musician, he’s gotten to visit quite a few places in his time. I’m sure every other urban dweller who reads the article is measuring their city against the criterion, but I have to say I think Chicago (N.b. where I used to live) stacks up nicely:

  • Size, second largest city in the US

  • Density great urban core with a westward sprawl of tightly packed neighborhoods

  • Sensibility and attitude good old big-shouldered Midwestern values, with a wry wink at all that “Second City” crap

  • Security maybe the weakest point, waxes and wanes but overall not too bad

  • Chaos and danger still plenty of room in Chicago for urban homesteading and Bohemian exploration amongst a few unruly parts of town, although Daley is probably trying to stamp them out even as we speak

  • Human scale there’s quite a variety of interesting residential neighborhoods nestled within and around the skyscrapers of the Loop

  • Parking not cheap by a long shot, but typically available and public transportation is quite serviceable including the classic El

  • Boulevards Burnham’s radial avenues, Clark, Lincoln, et. al. should qualify

  • Mixed use while the Loop empties around 6 PM, the rest of the city keeps on going until 4AM

  • Public spaces, Helllloooo Lakefront, Grant Park, Midway, Belmont Harbor. I could go on ad nauseum.

One of the great things about Chicago is that from Memorial Day to Labor Day there are just tons of public festivals and gatherings at all scales. Bluesfest, Jazzfest, Gospelfest, Taste of Chicago, Air and Water Show, Dancing in the Park, Lallapalooza, Sox and Cubs, neighborhood festivals, block parties galore. Hundreds to hundreds of thousands of people get gather amiably, pleasantly milling about.

Not to mention Chicago has a great performing arts (music, theater, comedy, etc.) scene.

And we’ll keep quiet about the weather from October to May.

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