City life

Walking around Seville made me think about what makes some cities more walkable, pleasant and livable than others. Seville is certainly one of the most pleasant cities I have ever seen. I could see lots of the characteristics of a livable city. Buildings should integrate with life on the streets. In fact, the building itself is much less important than the relationship it creates in the community. Of course, attractive buildings are often better, but not always.

Buildings in Seville tend to be open to the outside. Most people like the merger of indoor and outdoors and Seville has that in abundance. In fairness to more buttoned-up cities, this works well because of the climate.

You also need density. This is something that we don’t do well in the USA. One reason is that we tend not to like it, but another is related to our building regulation. The narrow streets and lack of access that make a place like Seville so attractive are usually illegal in the USA. And a big factor of a nice city is that few of its iconic buildings were built between around 1935 and 1965. Let’s not start on the malevolent influence guys Le Corbusier, suffice it to say that Seville did not suffer that.

We visited some of the parks as well as the great buildings of the Alcazar and the Cathedral. The Alcazar is a royal place. The Moors built the first part on Roman foundations and their influence is still dominant. After the reconquest, the Christian monarchs build on that, sometimes literally on top. We did the guided tour. The guide would often point to the different “layers” of a building. You can see in one of my pictures, the Moorish middle floor with a renaissance layer on top built by Charles V.

Speaking of Charles V, recall the he was born in Flanders – in Ghent, now part of Belgium. In addition to being King of Spain, he was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (most now Germany, Austria, Northern Italy and the Czech Republic. His family was the famous Austrian Hapsburgs. Spain in those days was part of great empire spread across the world and it got influences from all over.