Welcome, readers!

Welcome to H&J's adventure blog! Please enjoy your stay, and please do leave comments for us. We love to hear back from our readers. We also love taking requests for future posts. Anything you want us to blog about? Just email us. Thanks for reading!

Services We Recommend

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Walkup or workout?

It surprises many to hear it, but Paris is more than 5 times as dense as Boston. This has mostly to do with the fact that Paris is almost uniformly 3-5 stories high over its entire area, while Boston, by contrast, has some pretty amazing skyscrapers, but plenty of low-density residential areas as well. Why only 3-5 stories in Paris, you ask? Because most of contemporary Paris was built before the elevator, and 4 flights of stairs is pretty much the upper limit for a walkup. (The world's first real skyscraper, designed by Louis Sullivan and built in 1891, still stands in St. Louis, MO, USA.) Housing in high-density urban areas--in the 20th century at least--has therefore tended toward either 3-5 stories walkups (upper limit for trudging up flights of stairs) or Corbusian towers (equipped with elevators).

Interestingly Göteborg's housing comprises buildings which, though built around the turn of the 19th century, are neither towers nor 3-5 stories tall. Instead, they're 5-7 stories.

I'd hate to have a stairmaster competition with someone who lives in the penthouse in one of those buildings.

The housing is beautiful, and it's given Göteborg the opportunity to have much wider avenues than I would have expected from a city its age. Despite the wide avenues, which are wonderfully roomy, the city isn't terribly car friendly. Take, for example, the Kungsportsavenyn (the most famous street in Sweden, generally shorted to just Avenyn--the Avenue):

Eat your heart out, Champs d'Elysées.

In the US, this street would be 8 lanes of traffic with 3-foot sidewalks on either side. Just past the first turn here, the Avenyn, though it remains just as broad, has just 2 lanes of car traffic. The whole mood and texture of the city is like that: fine-grained old world charm and roomy, new world. Of all the cities I've visited, Montréal probably comes closest, but even it falls short of Göteborg's magic new-old balance. Definitely a winner.

No comments: