World Leaders Looking at Model Cities

Photo: Eric Federberg/Reuters

The blogosphere has parodied North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as being fond of looking at things, but there's one thing that he and leaders of other nations have in common: they all like to look at model cities.

Nate Berg of The Atlantic Cities compiled a collection of 25 leaders of the free and not-so-free world looking at miniature cities:

Whether they're taking credit for a development they likely had nothing to do with or trying to feign interest in a facility they probably don't care about, city models can be a prime minister's (or a president's, or a queen's) best friend. These 25 world leaders and heads of state from today and the recent past show how looking at small-scale models of big city projects can create the impression that they actually have some semblance of control over how their domain is built and developed.

Or, perhaps they like model cities because they're fun! Link

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That model is a classic example of how not to build a city. For reference, see the 'Pruitt-Igo' debacle, read almost any book such as "Human Factors in Architecture" and especially Christopher Alexander, "A Pattern Language".

Political figures always want to make cities that are symmetrical, organized-looking and 'efficient', concentrating on traffic flow and other dynamics questions, and probably an overarching design principle - buildings that 'match'. But people don't like to live in a plumber's dream or an architect's plan. Christopher Alexander's books came out of his study of what kind of spaces people like to live and work in, and found that in general the spaces we are comfortable in are vernacular structures. Architectural structures were generally not comfortable to most people.
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