Last week, the Atlantic Cities published an article that tries to explain “what your skyline says about your city.” The assumption is that different types of skylines convey different meanings, and cities should be aware of that process. So, for example, the “power broker” skyline
is tall and robust, and represents everything that we imagine when we think of skylines. New York, Tokyo, and Chicago are prime examples, all featuring a good mix of residential and commercial buildings, and a heterogeneous architectural fabric, indicative of a constantly evolving urban landscape.
The article features nine other skyline “categories” along with descriptions of the underlying messages they convey.
It’d be generous, though less and less inaccurate, to say that Provo has a skyline. Indeed more and more tall (or tall-ish) buildings are going up or being planned all the time. At this stage, however, the “message” Provo’s skyline conveys is still probably yet to be written. If anything, the many large cranes over the city and the relative newness of the tall buildings make Provo seem like something of a boomtown.
Over the long term, I see Provo’s skyline resembling Paris or Rome more than New York. Though those European cities are grouped into the “zoned out” category, their defining feature in my experience is the frequency of low- to medium-rise buildings.
In other words, neither of those cities — as well as others in Europe — have many of the massive structures that characterize American, Middle Eastern and Asian metropolises. Despite or, research increasingly suggests, because of the lack of super-tall buildings European cities manage to blend density with things like high quality of life and mixed use development. The European model seems fitting for Provo for those reasons, and because medium-sized buildings are cheaper to erect than ultra-tall skyscrapers.
But whatever the future holds, it’s important to consider now what kind of message the community wants to convey with its skyline.