Beautiful Streets: How do you define streetscape beauty?

Is a beautiful street something you feel? Is it context specific? Does beautiful equate to urbane, narrow, architecturally interesting, uniform, well kept, or busy? Is streetscape beauty like pornography? That is, do you know it when you see it? If beautiful streets are in the eye of the beholder, how can urbanists analyze these aesthetic judgments in a uniform way?

Two of Philly’s former Code for America fellows hope to help answer those questions through Beautiful Streets, an experiment with OpenPlans, to research what streetscapes people find more attractive. The Beautiful Streets website explains:

With your help, we’ll compare 200 randomly selected streets in Philadelphia and ask which one in each pair is more beautiful. We expect this experiment will produce some neat data, which you’ll be able to download here soon.

Urbanists routinely rattle off reflexive shorthand for what makes one street better than another (see: walkable, human-scale, green). But what does everyone else think? What are we missing? Where do we find beauty in otherwise unremarkable places? I’ll be really curious to see how the data from Beautiful Streets shake out.

Go ahead and click around on Beautiful Streets here.


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