Reading a new city…

Settling in to San Francisco for a two-month stay reminds me of studies at UC Berkeley 25 years ago in “reading” the cultural landscape of a neighbourhood, town or city.  When the opportunity to take my administrative leave at UC Berkeley was confirmed, there were decisions to be made about where to stay.  Do we camp up in the Berkeley Hills at Haven House which initially sounded very appealing and Berkeley-esque.

The Weston Havens House is a masterwork of Harwell Hamilton Harris, an architect who contributed importantly to re-directing the design of Modern architecture in California from the European International Style, as embodied in the Southern California works of Richard Neutra and R.M. Schindler, to a regional expression of Modernism, drawing on works by Bernard Maybeck and William W. Wurster.

But then I looked at the map and realized that we’d have to import our Vespas or we’d get into very good shape if we bought/rented/leased bicycles.  And then I remembered our allergies to older, dustier homes and decided this was a poor choice — despite that it would have been a unique experience.

On further reflection, I thought — when in our lives will we have such a great opportunity to live in a city like San Francisco?  After all, Berkeley is only a BART-ride away.  So the search was on for a small apartment in the centre of the City.  We found such a place — on Clay Street close to the Embarcadero and the newly renovated Ferry building.

But the whole point of this blog was to begin some ruminations on how you read a city — from both a design and business point of view.  How do we get to know what is happening?  What is the city culture and how do we discover its depth?

Places for clues… (remembering we have only been here for 2 days)

the newspapers…hmm the SF Chronicle is a skinny as our Monday’s Sun — maybe even more so

the homeless…so far seems more under control than in Vancouver — there must be shelter options in this neighbourhood

the coffee places…lots of Starbucks — but also plenty of competition like Peets

gyms…had to do some reconnaissance but there are probably 5-6 gyms within a couple of block radius of the apartment

transportation…BART still looking good after all these years – 20min to Berkeley, relatively comfortable seats and well designed stations that continue to hold their own design-wise

food…still sorting this out.  New ferry building has tons of options but it is high end.  Haven’t found the n’hood grocery store yet.

blackberries, iPhones and cell phones on the street… yes — lots of them I guess like every city in the world now

Anyway — will continue thinking about and reporting on how we are reading San Francisco.

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One Response to Reading a new city…

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention MQ » Blog Archive » Reading a new city… --

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