Nature and architecture are the main elements defining the appearance of an urban area – where humans habituate together. Nature used to dominate the places where people live – dwellings such as caves and treehouses were built out of and integrated into the environment around us.
Over time, architecture has become more and more important, in other words, its functions have increased in number. Not only it can provide shelter, it can help to solve problems like overpopulation, inhospitable weather, sanitation, health and wellbeing. Modern architecture has to serve another purpose, which is to take an aesthetic stand. As a result, the appearance of an urban territory is defined by the combination of its landscape and its architecture.
According to U City Guides, the most beautiful city in the world is Venice. An old city of streets and squares based around and on top of waterways. Walking through the architecture is like entering a fairy tale – the building sit suspended atop the water as it by magic. According to the guide, the second most beautiful city is Paris, which is also a place of historic houses and narrow, charming streets, juxtaposed with more modern architecture. With it’s handsome old districts and iconic structures, Paris has built itself a reputation for being elegant, storied and romantic.
The ugliest cities, again according to U City Guides, is Guatemala City, followed by Mexico City, and in third place, Amman in Jordan. Guatemala City is an urban conurbation consisting of buildings built at different times. Despite the fact that there was clearly no coordinated or organised urban plan, the rooftops and facades of the city’s buildings are remarkably colourful. Mexico City has architecture that are of different heights, sizes and colours, it is as if each building has its own story and “personality”. The city of Amman is located on hills, which means that the architecture wraps around the landscape of the region. Most houses seem to be identical; they are of the same colour palette, a similar number of storeys and mostly adopt the form of a rectangular box.
In some ways, the three cities are attractive. The commonalities of the first two cities are that their buildings do not seem to be unified or very defined, i.e. each of the buildings seems to have its individuality. In contrary, Amman has architecture that gives out the same vibe, and it is difficult to distinguish from building to building. One thing these cities aren’t is dull and lifeless.
Time changes the way a city looks, a lot of old cities capture an intangible quality that some newly built and meticulously planned cities can’t do. However, we also find beauty in new buildings, new technology and the way this allows us to interact with our surroundings and experience the cityscape. Skyscrapers, for example, when combined with lighting can create a grand, fun and sensual scenery. With its generous use of light and glass facades, many consider Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Singapore, beautiful cities. Their constant energy, relentless movement, and their indulgence, make them highly likeable.
What defines a beautiful city? Is it a city of uniqueness or a city of international architectural style? A city with historical value or a city of innovative technology? A city containing all of the above characteristics or a city without any of them? Ultimately, every city has aspects that should be appreciated and admired.
“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveller. Depending on the city and the traveller, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity.” Roman Payne, Cities & Countries
By Rachel Tam
Photo credit: Rachel Tam