MLR 03 - 11 - 2010

In Tallinn, Estonia there is Old Town which was the center of the medieval trade on which it grew prosperous, and New Town which is a modern city outside of the mostly still existing city wall. The experience of Old and New Town is quite different, especially for a pedestrian. Old town consists of small streets, short buildings, hardly any cars, and the pedestrian always has the right of way. Being a pedestrian is comfortable in Old Town, most walk in the middle of the street because there are so few cars, and the ones that do appear are moving slowly and allow pedestrians to cross in front of them. There is a human scale in Old Town that creates an ease. The buildings are short and are designed with medieval architecture that is mostly wooden structures that completes the old, established feeling of Old Town. Stepping out of Old Town is like stepping into another city. The streets are large and filled with fast moving cars. The buildings are incredibly tall and mostly recent architecture styles. New Town is fast paced like any other city and although it is still somewhat easy to get around as a pedestrian, it pales in comparison to Old Town. The entire scale of New Town is larger, with sizeable city blocks that create longer routes for pedestrians and cars, and create a feeling of insignificance as you almost get run over by a honking car. It seems to me that Tallinn, Estonia has joined the modern world in design with New Town. So many cities all over the world are just like New Town, and the cities like Old Town are disappearing. But to me, as a student of landscape architecture, I pay attention to how spaces make people feel. Old Town keeps the scale at the personal level and is successful in making people feel comfortable and at ease, and I am glad that it still survives and even thrives because of it. If only we could stop ourselves from building New Towns, when Old Towns would be so much more conducive to a higher quality of life and to a more sustainable world. We should strive to move backwards in this aspect and strive to design more Old Towns and less New Towns.

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