Dec 29, 2016

Alpha Minus CIty

I've been to Atlanta a few times now. We've visited downtown, midtown, uptown, lonely and aging suburban districts, little "revitalized" urban centers of former edge towns with new "antique" lamp posts and cute signage, and the sterile but straightforward commercial centers of cheap strip malls with fanciful names floating on seas of asphalt between them all. In short: one of the better cities of our Varying States of America.

It was not so long ago that I was adamant that I would never like or consider living in Atlanta. A city without a past, whose face was a blank mirrored 1980's facade, where the Lords ruling the city were Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines and other Evil, Soulless Corporations.

So what have I learned in the week or so of time I've now spent here?

The sprawl of the city, the asphalt and traffic and rhythm of urban centers and strip malls gives the city the feel of the west: Phoenix and California. Oklahoma. There's not much density in what I have seen so far.

It's got some similarities to Chicago, but I find the feel closer to Saint Louis, but blown completely out of the scale of the latter.

There is a surprisingly robust public transit system. Not the same league as Boston or any of the major northeastern or northwestern metropolises (even Portland had better), but infinitely superior to Houston, Phoenix, Oklahoma City. One could even consider commuting with public transit.

There's a saying about Atlanta, which mostly refers to it's civil rights attitudes in the 1960s: A City Too Busy to Hate. It's a pretty strong backhanded compliment. What would you think of someone who was described like that? "I'd love to go harass some immigrant families, but I've got to finish these reports before the end of the fiscal year."

I enjoy the greenery of Atlanta. Everything from pine to peach to prickly pear.

There's a yuuuuuge Korean and Vietnamese community in the northeastern suburbs of Atlanta. It's the same terrible urban fabric as the rest of the city, but the signage and store contents are in Korean, Chinese, Mexican Spanish, Vietnamese, Thai. Korean bakeries on every corner, across from the Korean churches.

There's a surprising amount of good brutalist architecture. It looks as though Atlanta bought their major public works ten years before Houston, so Atlanta ended up with chunky, modernist concrete, which is holding up much more gracefully than Houston's wacky and garish postmodernism.

It's a pretty cheap city in which to live, with a pretty high average salary for architects, and a very strong economy. There is a system classifying cities in the world in terms of their importance to the global economy, influence, production of ideas and culture, etc.
Alpha ++ NYC, London
Alpha + Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, Dubai, Sydney, Beijing
Alpha Milan, Toronto, Chicago, Moscow, Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Frankfurt, [...]
Alpha - Dublin, ATLATA, Munich, Boston, Barcelona, San Francisco, Prague, Istanbul, [...]

Stuttgart is a Beta city, and Phoenix is a Gamma Plus city, Portland is a Gamma Minus city.
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