David Byrne on what make cities work

Osaka’s robot-run parking lots mixed with the Minneapolis lakefront; a musician’s fantasy metropolis. Article by David Byrne: A Talking Head Dreams of a Perfect City

“A city can’t be too small. Size guarantees anonymity—if you make an embarrassing mistake in a large city, and it’s not on the cover of the Post, you can probably try again. The generous attitude towards failure that big cities afford is invaluable—it’s how things get created. In a small town everyone knows about your failures, so you are more careful about what you might attempt. Every time I visit San Francisco I ask out loud “Why don’t I live here? Why do I choose to live in a place that is harder, tougher and, well, not as beautiful?” The locals often reply, “You don’t want to live here. It looks like a city, but it’s really a small village. Everyone knows what you’re doing” Oh, OK. If you say so. It’s still beautiful.”

4 Comments leave a comment below

  1. Disagree w/ the “everyone knows what you’re doing in SF.” For the most part, people know what you allow them to know.

  2. I’ve lived in both New York and San Francisco for a number of years, and I find that you’re just as likely to be embarrassed in front of someone you know in New York as in San Francisco. Despite its huge population, it’s got the “small world” quality and quick gossip chain that makes it seem like everyone knows what you’re doing. The difference between the two cities is that the gossip in San Francisco has decidedly less schadenfreude. So I have to disagree with Mr. Byrne on this one. I think it’s the lack of judgment that makes a place generous toward failure, not its size.

  3. I love this article! My dream city a Mix of Amsterdam, Austin, Texas, and Vanouver with a little NYC thrown in.

Leave a Comment