BJG 01 - 18 - 2010

The first thing I learned about Monaco was that their whole socioeconomic system was based around gambling, racing, and upper-class tourism. Despite this emphasis on excessiveness and wealth, I found the city's infrastructure to be quite green, safe, and relaxing. The only flat land in Monaco exists artificially; the city rolls down tall peaks quite quickly to the Mediterranean coast. In order to continue growing, the city's density is built up with apartments, condos, and hotels shooting up to 16+ floors and averaging about 5 in the heart of the city center. Despite this densely compacted urban environment, I was very surprised at the amount of green throughout. Grade level is used for transportation or commercial activities but the skyline is dotted all over with various green roofs, housing a multitude of vegetation. Fully matured trees shoot up to extend the height of some of the tallest buildings and rooftop gardens with shrubs, pools, and overhead shading create relaxing spaces in which one can enjoy watching the traffic below or a plethora of boats pulling into the many harbors. With the amount of built environments in Monaco, the city could easily look like a solid mass of concrete and steel stuck into the side of the mountainous cliffs (not too different from other emerging metropolises). Instead, layers of green emerge from the rooftops to break up the density, provide shade and water retention, and to allow the return of nature as it appears to emerge and break through solid mass to create a sort of hole, grounding the city as being a part of the hillside, not resting or being built up on top of. [The bottom sketch illustrates the richly colored buildings and their juxtaposition to their green roofs and highlights the surprising amount of green space seen when overlooking the city from the palatial hill]. Even though Monte-Carlo draws in high rollers and wealthy elitists, I found the culture to be very focused on sustainable practices. I have never before seen a city with such a high percentage of green roofs (easily putting Chicago to shame) and I learned that the city is making the most use of already occupied land, opting to build up instead of sprawling out. The density of the city was not overwhelming and the many harbors and green spaces provide ample opportunities to rest and enjoy the great Mediterranean weather. I would imagine that, could I afford it, the principality of Monaco would make a great, relaxing environment to live in or at least vacation to. The focus on this great life would lead to clear, relaxing thoughts, focused on the sea and extravagant city. I almost couldn't help but to quickly sketch every seagull that flew within feet of my resting place while overlooking the harbor and skyline [top sketch]. At the end of the day, I was reminded that you can't judge a book by its cover or a city by its average income.

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