Read the full story in the Washington Post.
Throughout history, location-specific climate, topography, hydrology, geophysical factors and biospheres have shaped — and sometimes threatened or destroyed — built environments worldwide. This is why many cities look different, why overall urban form, architecture and housing can differ considerably from city to city.
Most of us rarely think about the influence of Mother Nature on the history, culture, design, character and livability of places we occupy. When people consider where to settle, they usually start with a geographic choice — city or suburb — often based on personal familiarity, employment opportunities, family proximity and cost of living.
Residential real estate decision-making follows and typically focuses on other variables: perceived social and visual characteristics of neighborhoods; transportation accessibility; availability and quality of schools, shopping, entertainment, cultural resources and community facilities; house or apartment building curb appeal; dwelling interior functionality; and dwelling affordability.
It’s easy to take for granted natural conditions that have affected land-use patterns; delineation and layout of neighborhoods and street networks; size and landscaping of streets and civic spaces; architectural composition and material attributes of buildings; and the three-dimensional composition and appearance of various housing types.
Comparing Washington to Houston and Boston, places where I have lived, helps illustrate city differences driven, enhanced and constrained by Mother Nature.