Thursday, June 26, 2008

Portland - Top Ten Design City

The buzz of the week is all over BusinessWeek's listing of the 'Top Ten Cities for Design in America' - and I just want to throw out my plug for Portland as the long-shot entry. Why is that? Well here's the list, via the article (with my superimposed population for Metropolitan area figures in parentheses - all data via Wikipedia). And go Chicago... well deserved.

:: image via BusinessWeek

1. Chicago (9,524,673)
2. New York (18,815,988)
3. Boston (4,482,857)
4. Los Angeles (12,875,587)
5. Portland (2,175,113)
6. San Francisco (4,203,898)

7. Seattle (3,309,347)
8. Denver (2,464,866)
9. Philadelphia (5,827,962)

10. Washington, D.C. (5,306,565)

For some illumination, the criteria, per BW: "U.S. cities with populations over 500,000 according to 10 design-related categories, including the number of buildings featured on the National Historic Register, the quality and quantity of public transit systems, the number of "green" buildings and level of sustainability, and the number of architectural and design awards won. They also consulted the heads of local chapters of the American Institute of Architecture."

An impressive allotment to say the least, and even more cool that Portland is significantly a smaller-market metro area - with the only real close ones being Denver and Seattle . Innovation, not size, is our credo. And Portland scored high in 'green-ness'. From BW: "One of the smaller cities on the list, Portland has long proclaimed its urban greenness. Portland architects also design their buildings and projects to blend in with their surroundings, making for a distinctive urban aesthetic. Approvingly, 72% of respondents professed to be happy with the quality of the city's architecture."

Even so, the article misses the grandeur of Portland and reinforces the provinciality - with a lame, lame shot of solar panels going up on a house. Nothing against solar panels, but c'mon - it's an article about design?

:: lame... image via Business Week

And of course a shout out to Seattle - which I recently was visiting for a work day-trip, and hands down, no city is as beautiful on a nice summer day than Seattle. Some reasons for their No.7 ranking, via BW: "While Seattle has achieved a high level of architectural sustainability and has won a respectable number of Community & Housing Design Awards, its comparative lack of cultural institutions and buildings on the National Historic Register (perhaps not surprising given its status as one of America's newer cities) kept it from placing higher. Of those surveyed, 74% rated their quality of life as either "good" or "excellent."

:: image via Business Week

While all of these 'rankings' are sure to create more questions than answers - it's interesting that a pure 'design' look creates (from BW): "In this survey, only manufactured design was considered—natural advantages such as rolling hills or soaring mountains were discounted. Schubert says that Los Angeles was able to beat out more traditionally green cities like Portland, San Francisco, and Denver thanks to its aggressive new green initiatives and because of its attempts to reduce existing urban sprawl and create a denser city center."

I guess we will all have to be content to cry ourselves to sleep on our organic cotton pillows, or polishing our bikes, or sitting on the wonderful mass transit - wondering WTF does this as well have to do with design...?


  1. I have to admit, the criteria for this list seemed so arbitrary when I read about them earlier today that I actually got a little angry. It was futile anger...more like a strong annoyance.

    I just don't see how cross-referencing transit, green buildings, and creative workers (a label that encompasses a lot more than just design professionals) has anything to do with coming up with a list of design cities. It's the same old, same old. No new light shed on anything, nothing to be learned or learned from.

    What a waste of resources.

  2. Here here Brendan... there seems to be a lot of 'ranking' going on about who's the best/biggest/greenest... and the criteria gets more and more vague. It seems you hit it right on... they are the best transit / green building / creative hubs... to me which doesn't say anything about design...

    Pointless is true - and strong annoyance is now my favorite phrase, and I will try to use it in context 3 times tommorrow at work... :)


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