Most European cities are supposed to be human-centred affairs, where everyone gently walks about on quaint streets, enjoys those completely wanky things called ‘culture’ or ‘history’, or breathes the supposed ‘soul’ of a faux city core. Nothing could be further from the truth, for they are alienating experiences that remind me uncannily of Disneyworld or the Epcot Centre. But perhaps there is another reason, which was revealed to me the other day: they are planned to the minutest detail. No refurbishment, no new building, no work in any sense can be done without planning to the minutest detail. Any renovation must follow manufactured codes of what counts as ‘old’ or ‘historic’. Any new construction must meet an endless set of requirements, so as to fit in with the ‘feel’ of what is already there, or perhaps to fit a model of what is supposed to be an ideal city in some other place. By contrast, take me to a place that has grown organically, in which planners struggle and usually fail to impose their ideas after the fact, where planning has become impossible. Actually, take me out of cities altogether …

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