Sense of Place, Recent Travel Abroad

Our family just returned from a trip to Madrid and Paris. This trip was awesome!  We were enticed by the scale and warmth of inviting, walk-able cities.


We were joyful for the playgrounds we explored and were enlightened by the simplicity of daily market life intertwined with world-class art exhibits and music. Upon returning, Rowe (our 13 yr-old) had an immediate reaction to our home, NYC: “It’s so…gray!”


City of Light – There’s a Reason

Observation noted. Why does Paris seem so colorful? Is it because people are different there? The climate? How come our home, one of the greatest cities in the world, appears drab in comparison to Paris? Culture may have some influence. But I KNOW design matters:

  • Lower buildings: Paris strictly protects the current height limits of buildings. This means the city feels more “human” than NYC’s towers. Also, sunlight makes its way down into the city streets, markets, shops, cafes and bakeries so people are more infused with warmth and daylight.
  • Narrower streets: Many Parisian streets are designed for people not cars: stone pavers, narrow passages, bollards to slow or block traffic. People feel more comfortable and have a sense of belonging in these human spaces.
  • Color: the Parisian palette has soft earth tones, and their sensibilities flaunt bright colors with expressions of “look at me!” or, “There are so many reasons to be happy today!”

Design Informs our Senses

Different city designs inform our perception of that city and the type of energy we feel. Paris is the home of fashion, color, love and whimsy. NYC is fast paced, and business oriented, with the gray exteriors rising up out of the pavement like crisp, tailored suites… Perhaps that’s a reason Paris really appealed to our kids. It tapped into their sense of play and felt more accessible.

Traveling to foreign countries is a great way to gain new perspective on home, and what home means for us. Paris may be more colorful on the outside, but NYC has it where it counts – in its heart.

Onward, Eric