We Americans are a puzzling bunch. We travel to Italy, France or Spain and come back smitten with the charmingly walk-able streets, close-knit houses, and humanly scaled public spaces we find there. Yet we seldom stop to wonder why our own built environment is so utterly lacking in those traits. It's no mystery: In spite of rising population and dwindling resources, America remains saddled with long outdated planning ideals that are the furthest thing from the European examples we admire so much. America is a vast nation, and perhaps in consequence, our planners and engineers have historically been trained to think big. This tendency has produced some magnificent civil engineering projects such as railways, dams and bridges. Yet it hasn't been nearly so successful at the scale of human hab...
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