Building Heights and Arboral Roots (November 1, 2005)
Take a look at this typical Paris street and note the height of the buildings. Paris is largely made up of buildings six or seven stories in height, and somehow this particular scale is satisfying to the pedestrian--not so high as to be overwhelming and shadowing, not so low as to seem suburban. There are a number of practical reasons for this rather uniform height--political restrictions, the engineering limitations of the building materials used in the 16th and 17th centuries, when much of the city was constructed, and the inconveniences of ascending higher buildings in the pre-elevator era.
But is it just coincidence that the height of these buildings roughly equals those of canopied or conifer forests? Perhaps our comfort with these stately avenues stems partly from their resemblance to pathways cleared in the canopied tropical and temperate conifer forests of our distant past.
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