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It Is a Matter of Scale or What is the Connection between Brain Size and Sprawl

Scale is fundamental to urban design. If you get it right, and achieve a well-proportioned space between buildings, you have a sound basis to build upon. Even if the architecture is far from perfect, the public realm you create can be decent and comfortable. If you get the scale wrong and your master plan is built, even the most lustrous architecture won’t remediate the failure of space-making; people might still use it for utilitarian reasons (think the parking lot of a Wal-Mart), but will not enjoy it. Getting the urban scale right has been the mantra of planners and architects for ages. But have we been practicing what we have been preaching? In reality, we have been putting up for too long with the worst offender to human scale, sprawl. This pathological growth pattern has created environments of magnified dimensions that overwhelm the physical size of the human body. Massive thoroughfares, perfect for fast-moving cars but not for pedestrians, have destroyed our neighborhoods; mind-boggling multi-level interchanges have eroded our urban cores; single-use mega structures of enormous size and their even more enormous parking lots, have obliterated the walkable scale of traditional towns. This type of planning has resulted not only in the largest waste of real estate, infrastructure and natural resources in human history, but has seriously impeded some elemental human necessities – the need to walk based on the physiology of our two-legged bodies, and the need for spatial enclosure based on the physiology of our human eyes as well as our psychology. It is simple: we enjoy walking and we enjoy well-defined spaces, while sprawl has deprived us of both. Read more at Galina Tachieva's blog. ____________________________ Galina Tachieva is a partner and director of town planning at the central office of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, in Miami, Florida. She is originally from Bulgaria, and received a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Sofia and a master’s in urban design from the University of Miami, Florida. Galina submitted a “Sprawl Repair Kit,” which contains some of the ideas and drawings from her book, to the 2009 Re-Burbia competition sponsored by the blog Inhabitat and DWELL magazine, where it won the People’s Choice Award. She is the author of The Sprawl Repair Manual.