Urban Planning and the Beautiful

Beauty is likely not one of the most important considerations people think about when planning in an urban environment. Probably transportation and housing, along with other amenities associated with tourism, would be higher on most people’s list. But in a CityLab article from May 15, 2019, Richard Florida explains some new research that shows a connection between beauty and a city’s economic growth.

City Architecture Beautiful City ​​center Travel

Beautiful places do not just occur naturally: They are the product of public policy and investment.

Economists developed an idea called the “beauty premium,” which is used to describe the phenomenon that more attractive people tend to earn more and have more successful careers. Some urban design researchers have wondered whether there is a similar affect in places, not just people. And specifically, they have focused on whether a city’s beauty has an influence on its growth.

Aesthetics is a matter of basics, not of frills.

Marcia Muelder Eaton, Aesthetics and the Good Life, 179.

“The study by Gerald A. Carlino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Albert Saiz of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, examines the connection between a city’s beauty and key growth indicators.” They show that there is a beauty premium for cities, and even to specific neighborhoods within cities. They found that people are more likely to live closer to areas of beauty, even more than areas convenient to their jobs or industry.

But they warn that while urban beauty is a cause for economic growth, it also “comes with gentrification and displacement.” So, beauty is good for cities and neighborhoods, but state and local policies need to help prevent the negative effects that can arise alongside of the beautification.

Considering the aesthetic qualities of a city should not be considered after the fact. It is something that should be considered during all phases of development for the greater good of the city.


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