Tell me how you think I will tell you where you live.
How do people shape their cities and cities shape their people?
“By bringing together people from multicultural origins, and establishing communication channels and systems of cooperation, cities have induced synergy from diversity, dynamic stability from competition, order from chaos” (Susser, 2002, p. 367)


The infrastructure of a city is what makes it in many ways a good or bad place to live and work. It includes the buildings (monuments, offices, housings…) their architecture and location. The transportation system (roads, bridges, public transportation), the facilities (religions, parks, rivers…). But anyone who has ever been in any city would admit that a city is something else. There is another dimension to it that makes it a good or bad place to live in.
Indeed, cities are gathering buildings, system and facilities, but they are also gathering together people. Whether they were born in the city or just moved in for work, whether they are young or old, student or unemployed, they all together create the special environment embodied in their city. And yet they don’t even know each other, some do not even share anything but the place they live in.
As Geoffrey West explains in an Interview in The New York Times “Cities can’t be managed, and that’s what keeps them so vibrant. They’re just these insane masses of people, bumping into each other and maybe sharing an idea or two. It’s the freedom of the city that keeps it alive.” [1]


Another abstract concept: the freedom of the city. Is it the freedom to go wherever one wants? To enjoy whatever entertainment? To choose one job among many different opportunities? Cities give the freedom of possibilities and capabilities, thus, the freedom of having power.
Once more, this is not enough to describe a city. It cannot explain for explain the existence of the Paris syndrome[2] or the Stendhal syndrome[3] (not to mention other cities’ syndromes).
There is consequently a special atmosphere emanating from some cities that is conveyed by both the buildings and the people. A long or strong history also helped create a myth around those cities. But if buildings (as different as they are from one city to another)do not change and can then be easily identified to a myth, it is not that simple about people. Whereas building and monuments are often immovable and can help us uncover the myth of a city, populations are constantly evolving. Indeed, people change; they live and move and do not comply to a myth just because they live somewhere that conveys this myth.
Thus, what makes Parisian or New Yorkers part of the myth of the city they populate?
The theory I will expose in this paper attemps to explain how cities have been built according to a ways of thinking, up to a point where buildings ended embodying this way of thinking. A mentality created a city that itself enforced that mentality. Asking now which of the city and its people shaped the other is synonymous with being confronted with the age-old chicken and egg dilemma. We will never know and I should assume that both did.
Based on theories of cities and infrastructure, sociological research on culture, and personal observations of the three cities where I lived, I will attempt to demonstrate how the infrastructures of the cities of Rome, Paris and Washington D.C. reflect the way Romans, Parisians and Washingtonians respectively think and behave. To conduct this research, I will first introduce and define some theories on cities, infrastructures and architecture. I will then draw a brief cultural history of Rome, Paris and Washington D.C. And finally, link characteristics of each city to the cultural “way of life” of its inhabitants. For the sake of clarity, I will focus on the city area and not the metropolitan[4] area of these cities.


[2]The Paris syndrome is a psychological disorder encountered by some people, in most cases from Japan, visiting or vacationing in Paris. It is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution, aggression, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating. This symptom occurs during trips which confront travellers with things they have not previously experienced and had not anticipated. Principal to the diagnosis is that the experienced symptoms did not exist before the trip and disappear following a return to the sufferer's familiar surroundings.

[3] The Stendhal syndromeis a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world. The illness is named after the famous 19th-century French author Stendhal, who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.
[4] Metropolitan areas include suburbs and smaller town in the surrounding of a big city. I choose not to extend my research to metropolitan areas mostly because of the difficulty to know where they actually stop. Moreover, the criteria of delimitation of such areas often vary from one culture to another (partly because of cultural considerations of transportation means), thus, studying three culturally very different city, it is safer to refer to the administrative disclosure of these three cities.


I. Cities and Urban Culture

“Space does not reflect society, it expresses it, it is a fundamental dimension of society, inseparable from the overall process of social organization and social change” (Susser, 2002, p. 393)

I.1. City

A city is a living place that gathers people and trade. The difference with a town is only a matter of size, but is hardly clearly define. (In French there is no difference between city and town (ville) the first difference is made between city/town and village (village) which is less than 2000 inhabitants.) Cities have long been the center of power and economic development.
Village_de_Borre_(Nord_59_France).jpgAccording to L. Wirth, a city is “a relatively large, dense, and permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals”, for Mumford, a city is a “point of maximum concentration for the power and culture of a community”.
Thus, we will consider a city as both a social and cultural concentration of people. With the twenty-first century and the ever accelerating globalization process, a power-shift from cities to wherever you can be connected to “the rest of the world” started.

I.2. Urbanism/ Urbanization

Urbanization_advancing_wave_aerial_DP1002.jpgThe process of urbanization was defined in many various ways.
Ranging from a very demographical perspective, to a more sociological one, cities have been the subject of numerous studies and theories

The two main senses we can pick up from this pool of theories are:
  1. A particular form of the occupation of space by a population, namely, the urban center “resulting from a high concentration and relatively high density, with, as its predictable correlate, greater functional and social differentiation”. (Susser, 2002, p. 22).
  2. The diffusion of the system of values, attitudes and behavior called “urban culture” (Friedmann, 1953; Bergel, 1955; Anderson, 1959: 68; Sirjamali, 1961; Boskoff, 1962; Gist and Fava, 1964)

Thus, using both definitions, urbanization is the gathering of many different group of people and the creation followed by a diffusion of a new culture, probably born out of the previous gathering.
Urbanization is often linked to industrialization and thus referred to as the process of organizing space during the first industrial revolution (Susser, 2002, p. 27). And it is true that this period has been characterized, at least in Europe, by a huge migration from rural to urban areas.However, it is important to bear in mind that urbanization has always been part of the creation of cities, only this process has accelerated during the Industrial Revolution (19th)

I.3. Urban Culture

Defining urban culture as the result of the process of urbanization implies the idea that urban culture is produced by the given ecological context that of the city. (Susser, 2002, p. 35)
Taken into account this context, Simmel defined the urban individual as overstimulated by the extreme complexity of the city and thus needing to fragment its activities and commitment into his different roles. Leading to a great rationalization and depersonalization, the urban individual is at the same time centered on its individuality and free in relation to itself. (Simmel, 1950)
Louis Wirth is one of the few sociologists that tried to list the characteristic features of urban culture. He used three essential characteristics of urban areas: dimension, density and heterogeneity and theorized on the new form of social life they produce. His conclusions are that the dimension aspects of urban life leads to anonymity, superficiality, transitory relations, anomy, and lack of participation. Density reinforces relativism, global secularity (a global indifference to everything that is not linked to the objectives proper to each individual) and aggressiveness. Finally social heterogeneity leads to a high rate of social mobility, itself leading to a predominance of associations over community (interests over status). (Susser, 2002, pp. 37-38)

According to Simmel and Wirth, the urban culture and its effects on the urban individual creates a social life of various interests groups potentially capable of everything, but made of anonymous disinterested and skeptical individuals. Engagement and individual actions are almost absent and remain at a superficial level. This deletion of the t true individual into mere blurry common interest groups is what allows for a urban culture to rise. Indeed the erasing of individual voices and expectation creates the open space necessary for a new creation.
However different urban spaces have different cultures, as they are affected by the original pre-exixitng culture of the individulas that live in them. . Moreover, according to Ida Susser, the urban phenomenon is “the expression of the system of values current in the culture proper to a place and time”. (Susser, 2002, p. 43)

II. History and Architecture: The Baroque Style

Great lessons can be drawn from the time of the Roman Empire (27 BC - 476 AD).
Romans, when building cities, first took into consideration military concern, but also a great focus on trade facilities. Moving away from the Greek grid tradition, Romans adopted a “flexible orthogonality” (Kostof, 1991).
Rome was shaped gradually and without theoretical rigidity to favor open spaces for uninterrupted passage throughout the town. Roman architects created urban effects in a matter of elaboration and extension. They would use and adapt to geographical or already existing constraint. Public buildings and trade places were also to be spread evenly so that no neighborhood lacked entertainment and resources

After the Roman Empire, the most determinant period in Rome’s architecture is the 16th century. The baroque time with Sixtus V’s plan (1585-1590) gave a rising importance to streets. They were not perceived as space between buildings anymore but as a spatial element on its own. Streets were made straight, and artistically conceived.

The trivium, (convergence of three radial streets upon a square) borrowed from Roman Forum was implemented all-over the city and efforts were made to connect churches, other public buildings and straight street to create constellation of monumentality. At that time, the Obelisk becomes a striking spatial marker and geometric order is established.
France appropriated the Baroque style after 1650 and developed a rational system of urban design. The most distinct element of the French Baroque architecture are the tree-lined avenues, the residential square (continuous uniform facades, fixed by a central monumental statue) and to link tree-lined axis, roundabout and formal squares into geometric constellations.
Baroque style is associated to centralized power and thus capital cities, because it takes lots of decision-making to accomplish these patterns. Moreover: “The Baroque esthetic was endowed in stages with the blessing of modernity. The openness of the city form and the flow of fast-paced traffic, already important in the thinking of planners like l’Enfant […] were also pre-modern concern. At the same time, wide straight streets, open prospects, and the generous distribution of green reinforced the preaching of the increasingly vocal sanitation movement.” (Kostof, 1991, p. 217).
When l’Enfant started making plans of Washington D.C., the soon to be U.S. Capital, he thought both about its present status and its becoming. The grid pattern was admitted as the most efficient one, but also “tiresome and insipid”. To make sure the capital of the powerful empire would be as magnificent as it should be, l’Enfant thought of natural features in relation to public buildings, connected to each other and their hierarchy. Fifteen square would represent the fifteen states, and a statue of George Washington should rise at the crossing of the axes of the Capitol and the President’s House. L'Enfant_1791.jpg
L’Enfant’s work was influenced by two hundred years of urbanism whose main purpose was the creation of Capital cities.

Here is how l’Enfant himself described his first plan for Washington D.C.: “Having determined some principal points to which I wished to make other subordinate,I made the distribution regular with every street at righ angles […]and after wards opened some in different directions, as avenues to and from every principal places, whishing thereby not merely to contrast with the general regularity, nor to afford a greater variety of sites with pleasant prospects” (Kostof, 1991, p. 210)

We can conclude from these first two parts, in regards to our subject, that Rome, Paris and Washington DC share a great architectural and structural background. They of course have in common the “urban baggage”: gathering of buildings and culture, and some shared structure of urban culture. But they are also three capital cities, built/planned in a baroque esthetic and holding peculiar status and power over the country.


III. A brief Overview of Culture


III.1.Rome: elite of South Italy

“All roads lead to Rome”
Romans, unlike Parisians do not consider themselves as better than the rest of their country. Because it is the administrative and cultural capital of Italy but far from being the economic one, Romans think of themselves as “equal” to people from Milan, the enemy-sibling. Nevertheless, Romans do not lack pride, mostly because of the historic dimension of Rome, which made it a unique city at all times.
Manuela Merino Garcia in La captivité comme thème littéraire [1] shows indeed how Rome has always been a critical city. She narrates how in the novel la española inglesa even the most dedicated and ready-to-get-married lover would not get engaged before going to Rome. At that time, Rome (and his port Ostia) was not only home to the Catholic Church, but also a trade and culture crossroad and a crossing point for powerful and rich people. (Garcia, Lasserre Dampure, & Vatrican, 2006, p. 298)
But as Rome’s history conferred it a special status, its fragmentation in several more or less important periods also led to a disjointed culture. Roman culture is made up of clusters of very strong and deeply rooted beliefs/values surrounded by a blurry and flexible surrounding. The first core value, certainly shared all over Italy, is family. Unlike Simmel’s theory, Romans still have a strong sense of traditional community. The switch to “interest groups” was never made as Rome does not really offer equal opportunities to its inhabitants. Romansociety is embedded with values of power and hierarchy. Social groups/ classes are still very present and hamper the creation of the necessary space essential to the emergence of the ‘anonymous individual’ referred to by Simmel. Accordingly, there is a strong sense of property among Romans; whether it is for or against conserving individual property, kept strong by very low inheritance taxes. The long history of Rome and the preservation of familial property has preserved the existence of a tight network of influential and wealthy families, which perpetuate a cultural and social dimension of the historic Rome. However, these highly sophisticated and elitist old aristocrat families only represents a fraction of modern Roman society. To some extent, their persistence can explain the passionate political debates that colors almost any public space. Two other strong values Romans have are soccer and religion(which is almost a religion among Italians). Soccer as a value:every Roman supports either the AS Roma or Lazio soccer teams, and their choice usually reflects their social status. Wealthy families frequently support the AS Roma team, and less historically rich people support the Lazio team (Lazio being the name of the region,?). Religion always remained very rooted and strong in Rome, both in terms of fait and culture, The emphasis and importance of religions goes back before Catholicism to the roman religion.
The values described as critical to Roman culture (Family, Politic, Soccer and Religion) are equally important to all Roman people and each one of them would defend its side with force and passion. It almost seems that the rest is left to whoever wants to take care of it.

[1] Captivity as a literary theme


III.2. Parisians: excessively French

“Not everything comes from Paris, but almost everything ends in Paris, or depends on it” (Nourissier, 1971, p. 52)

Parisians are more Parisians than French. Considering that Paris is the administrative capital of France, and the cultural capital, the economic capital, the transportation nods to any national or international destination, the intellectual/scholar capital. Accordingly Parisians feel superior towards the rest of France. They are usually very proud people. And acknowledging they live in one of the most beautiful city of the world (which is a world-wide acknowledgement) strengthens that pride.
A characteristic of Parisians is their taste and the importance they give to it. Everything is a matter of “good taste”, from the furniture of the restroom to the way they dress; taste is part of the culture. The confidence they have in their taste and over the rest of the country make Parisians elitist people. Elist must not be misunderstood with being contemptuous, a distant first contact has to be interpreted as an observing/judging stage but may turn latter is great friendship and niceness. Moreover, when Parisians all over the world are referred to as grumpy and always criticizing it reflected more their passion for talking frankly. Indeed, all French people and mostly Parisians as center of every major academic institution like to endlessly and intellectually rethink the world. In this dynamic, criticizing or pointing at what going wrong is (for them at least) being objective and admitting was has to improve. It is also due to their confidence in their taste and thus judgment; and leads to a very frank intellectual speech, nothing should be a taboo.
Yet, if everything is to talk about, it must not be done without manner. Along the importance of taste, comes the importance of protocol and social rules have to be followed (for example, it is inappropriate to talk about health, politic and money during lunch or dinner). Strangely, social rules are important, the state is respected has holder of the precious cultural background, but the government (whoever it may include) is scorned. Indeed it is almost a rule, that although Paris is considered as the best place to be by Parisians, it is badly governed (as the rest of France is). Parisians have a natural disposition for political anarchy that is back-up by strong social/ cultural rules and status.
As defined in urban culture, Parisians have this mix of individualism and deletion of the self that lead them to embrace a common set of values and gentleness referred to as catholic morality. Catholic is more a cultural background than a matter of belief, but it still led to a romantic perception of Paris. This gentleness combined to the legendary French prowess or panache indeed created a climate of charming bravery that was nothing more at the beginning that a matter of education. This catholic moral can also partially explain the emphasis made on collective rights notwithstanding the individualist tendency of Parisians.

III.3. Washington D.C: small scale USAcaptain-america-marvel.jpg

“America is a country built on contradictions. Imperial in origin, it has remained such ever since, yet seldom if ever confesses as much. It is a secular state suffused with religion, a puritan culture in love with pornography […]. America celebrates the individual yet citizens are, as Sinclair Lewis observed, always joining clubs, cults, good fellow societies, team… while, as de Toqueville noted, there is a constant risk of a tyranny of the majority. It is a country with its eyes set on the future but whose utopia is Eden, to be located in a mythic past” (Bigsby, 2006, p. 10)

This quote shows very well the contradictions within American culture. A nation built of immigrants, coming here to start anew, with all opportunities ahead, and still they seem almost guilty not to have an as long history as Europe. Built out of this unjustified guilt and this very strong will to “start again” American built themselves a whole new. Going forward, strong-willed and blessing technologies, they emphasis efficiency. Everything is turned toward progress (better, faster, stronger). The United State’s undeniable power in terms of number, military force and economy, partially thanks to this cult of technology, also created a nation confident in its values and ideas.
Because of their overall success, Americans rarely questions their right to do or think one thing or another. This is easily understandable: a nation of immigrants that gathered together from very diverse backgrounds but with the shared goal of achieving a better life. This ‘from-nothing-to-the-best-we-can’ state of mind led them to consider their best as THE best because they are the only nation that had this opportunity to start something new, with previous experiences they had learned from. This opportunity to create a new world out of nothing but based on past good and bad experiences gifted Americans with a pragmatic vision. This pragmatism is embodied in every apsct of their daily lives, from technology to well-being, opportunities have to be taken and created if the do not already exist
Individual rights are also a very important part of American culture. Once again, immigrants leaving their home country wanted to fight for their own life, property and rights From the start, the emphasis was put on the individual over the community. Ouille..comprends pas…Religions for example are commonly important all over America, yet there are more religions gathered in the UnitedStates only that in any single other country in the world. ? Another interesting example is the choice of road infrastructure over train, the choice of individual car over more efficient communal transport. This immigration-based nation fostered great respect for diversity. The prime example of this diversity is the election of a President from a racial minority, something still unconceivable today on the Old Continent (at least on the surface), stereotypes as criticism are not welcome because everyone has to right to be someone somewhere. And if all this diversity stands together and manages to do so well, it is also because they rely on and trust their government. Americans are proud of their country and would not criticize it.

This paper’s purpose is not to tackle the United States as a whole but Washington D.C specifically. However, I argue that Washington DC is fairly representative of the United-States’ culture as a whole. Indeed, because it hosts the government agencies, DC is populated by people coming from all different states. Washington DC is almost a small scale representation of American culture: it gathers very different people basically around one same goal (government/policies/laws-making) and it is where opportunities are or are created.


IV. People shape their city/ City shape their people

In order not to compare incomparable figures, here is a small table of the population, area and density of each city. All mentioned data should be used with this table in mind.

Rome [1]
Paris [2]
Wasington DC [3]
496 sq mi
41 sq mi
68 sq mi
601, 723
5,564/ sq mi
54,300/ sq mi
9,800/ sq mi
In this fourth part we will now look closer at some specific elements of each city (whether they are common elements or not) and see how they embedded or not the way Romans, Parisians and Washingtonians are.
I will follow the same pattern for each city: after stating why it is considered a capital of the world, and mentioning the date the city was built, I will analyze its quotation and administrative twinning/friendship with other cities according to the urban culture Then, I will look at more structural elements as the overall organization of the city and its architecture, the transportation system, the main axis, the religious facilities, the distribution of gardens/parksand their type. I selectedelements that I could find and analyze in each of the three cities, and that according to me shape the “personality” of a city, thus for their relevance to my argument.


IV.1. Rome


Rome has been nicknamed “Caput Mundi” [1] since the Roman Empire. At that time “the world” meant basically Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia and was mostly ruled by the Roman Empire first and then the Roman Catholic Church. This long Roman power gave to Rome its natural status of Capital of the World. The oldest trace of city we found on Rome’s ground goes back to 753 B.C.
But Rome’s quote is from the Roman Republic (around 500 B.C.) and is “S.P.Q.R.” meaning: Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, that is to say “The Senate and the Roman People”. It both reveals the power of politics in Rome and Romans’ heart, and the clear society shift between those having power, and the others.
For the Administrative twinning with cities, as Paris, Rome as one and only exclusive and reciprocal official twin city since 1956 that is Paris. Apart from that twining, Rome has established 23 friendships among which Washington D.C. It is interesting that more than half of these friendships are with cities of the developing world. Revealing its shifted society once more, those friendship shows that on the one hand some Romans are elitist and proud and considers only Parisians can be their equal. But on the other hand there are even more Romans are ready to established friendship with anyone without any elitist interest.
Rome overall structure is more characterized by an absence of structure. Indeed, following the organizing principles of the Roman Empire when it comes to cities, Rome gradually expanded on opportunities, needs, and constraints. The very broad structure is made up of three layers of circles and of ancient major road coming from the outside, connecting the capital to its Empire’s borders The rest is a mass of rather small street and rarely straights, built one after the other as romans’ population was expanding.

This typically reflects the Romans society, made of few very broad but very important principles (family, soccer, religion and politics) deeply rooted within society. The rest is up to everyone, according to each one’s will, money and power. The absence of any re-organization is partly because Romans know how to deal with what they have, their sense of bargaining, hand-negotiating is high. Similarly, Romans’ humor appears to be racist, but mainly reveals how everything can be laughed about,. It also highlights the shift of the society, as racismhighlight differences nobody is guilty for.
The overall architecture of Rome has some common apsects but it actually goes from ancient Rome in the center, to fascist architecture at its border. It embodies the evolution and history of the city. The somehow unity of buildings shows that Italy is more or less a collective-rights country, but that power and money can still come over it, which explain some singularities.
As Rome is embodied in collective rights as Paris, it should have, according to our previous analysis, a strong transportation system. Rome has 2 major railways stations, and 6 minor ones; which is a great number of stations, going outside of the city.
Thus, we can bet, going to second houses or family relatives. The inside of Rome has 6 street car and 2 metro lines that cross at one railway station. This 47 metro stations network poorly respond to Rome’s population needs. It needs to be taken into account that Rome’s metro has had to deal with historical issues and endless archeological search that slowed, if not stopped, its expansion.

Even gardens/parks in Rome are relevant to its shifted society. Indeed, there are very few gardens or parks in Rome, but the few are former palace and private propriety. As I linked gardens to fashion for Paris, the same can be done here. Fashion as the rest is the privilege of some elite, thus, garden as fashion is reserved to few eligible people, but when it gets to them, it is in a highly sophisticated style.
Once more, this sytem reveals that when there is an interest for wealthy people to get things done, it gets done (railway towards outside of the city). But as wealthy Romans have cars or vespa, their use and need of the metro gets diminished and thus does not expand.

Finally, Rome’s religious facilities. Rome hosts the capital of the Catholic church, St Peter. Over 900 churches are spread over Rome, and Romans are strong believers, and very strong Catholics. Almost all of the 900 churches still have their own offices and community. When it comes to other religions, it is very hard to find relevant data, but it is known that a Jewish community has always dwelled in Rome as well as hosting the biggest European mosque. This small religious presence can be explain by the fact that Italy is traditionally an emigration country, and thus doesn’t welcome that many different ethnicities and religions. Accordingly, Romans are not prepared to give up Catholicism, but as very religious people, the may accept and get well with any people from other religions.

[1] Literally « head of the world »

external image paris2.gif

IV.2. Paris

Paris is considered by many as the capital of the world. Capital of fashion, of romanticism, of beauty and style. Trace of life on Paris ground is said togoes back to 3800 B.C., but because these facts are contestedwe will refer to what we know for sure: Lutetia (Paris’ name under the Gallic and Roman Empire) was built in 52 B.C.

Paris’ quotation « Fluctuat nec mergiture » which means « It is tossed by the waves, but does not sink » is a first reference to Parisians thinking. Indeed, Parisians being tossed by the waves referes to their “hard life” or rather to the fact that they criticize and complain about their city althought is it one of the most beautiful. he ship depicted on the coat of arms does not sink, because Parisians are proud and whatever happens to them, they will fight and resist. Noting that resisting and fighting is also part of criticizing.
As far as administrative twining among cities is concerned, Paris has only one official exclusive and reciprocal twinning since 1956: Rome. Because “Only Paris is worthy of Rome. Only Rome is worthy of Paris.” [1] But among the years friendship with 54 cities were also established, among which is Washington D.C. This is relevant to me as it shows both the pride and elitism of Parisians that would not become friend with anyone and engage in superficial relationships. ?There are two discinct word in french to talk about friends: ami is use for someone one really knows and appriciate, someone one would call just to know how things are going; copain has more a social dimension and is used for someone one knows and would enjoy seing at a social event. According to that Parisians, as Paris, have few real amis but lots of copains.
Let’s look now at Paris’ global structure. Parisians like to talk for hours and look at a topic from every possible angle. They also like thinking a lot through a maieutic process before acknowledging a peculiar point of view. Another good example of this set of mind is the way French people write. Scholar writing is often made of very long sentence, using comas almost as parenthesis, as slowly settling every condition to an argument that will only appears in the very end.
Accordingly, Paris was built in circles, from outside it is long to reach the heart of things, but from inside, things are secured and major principles are settled.

It is of course possible to go around Paris without always going in circles. It mostly requires knowing the space because nothing is made easy for that king of flow, and nothing seems logical about it. Avoiding protocols is the same among Parisian society; it is possible but requires to first master it to better know what is critical and what to do instead of it.
The major part of Paris is thus made of little curved streets. these street t hid the secret beauty of Paris, from romantic places to private houses. Once more, Parisians act the same. They are in reality characterized by a kind and gentle behavior, but before seeing it, it needs getting lost trying to get to know them. Staying superficial will lead to appreciating their outside ‘suit-up’ style but not their inner cultural beauty. Small streets structure can also explain French humor, which is very cynical. It is a rather somber discourse at first, and it needs taking off some layers before reaching the funny part of it.
In the middle of Paris flows the river Seine, dividing Paris and Parisians in two sides: right bank and left bank. I will not go too much in detail here, but a strong distinctionis made between Parisians living on different sides of the river. Most of these differences are linked to the monuments on each bank as well as the shopping places, railways stations… The right bank is seen as popular, is hosts “Les Halles” famous huge market place, and “les galleries Lafayette” the biggest shopping place in Paris. The Louvre and “les Champs Elysés” are also on the right bank giving culture and space to the people. The left bank is more elitist and intellectual. It is smaller than the right one and hosts most famous school and universities (La Sorbonne, Assas, Louis le Grand, Henri IV, the 1st Ecole Polythecnique, Ecole Militaire…) and has only one railway station (out of 6).
However, the greater at of Parisian architecture, whether one goes to the left or the right bank is the same. Haussman’ style was implemented in all Paris, in a restructuration move under Napoleon III, guided by a public/collective conception of the city as a place of living for all. Thus, the overall unified architectural style recalls the collective dimensions of society. This collectiveness is embedded in Parisians way of protesting all together whatever the cause. The emphasis on collective rights rather than individual rights is also noticeable in the transportation system of Paris.
Indeed, Paris has 6 railway stations and 16 metro lines (meaning over 300 metro stations). The huge metro system made it so convenient to go around Paris that lots of Parisian do not even have their driver license. Also Parisians do not talk to each other on the metro (remember that they are anonymous individuals) they share a common public transportation system as agreement toward the ability of the state, although they never stop criticizing it as they criticize the government.
As far as green areas are concerned (parks and gardens), most of Paris trees are on the sides of avenues. Two major parks are located just outside of Paris, on the West and the East side. Inside Paris can be found small French gardens (that is too say very precisely gardened, in a very sophisticated way), left all over the city. French Gardening can be compared to the Parisian importance of style. Everything relies on precise small details, fitting is the key to their style.
No excess and a secular state also led to Paris’ set of religious facilities. Despite its big size, only nine religions are officially represented by “office” buildings. Among the nine, is the Catholic Church gathering almost 50% of all religious buildings in 140 catholic churches. The presence of 8 other religion shows that diversity may not be the major trend but is tolerated. However, if one wants to live in Paris, he should embrace Parisian’s culture and be or catholic or secular. Similarly, if one wants to live in Paris he should better adopt the Parisian way of life otherwise he would be judged rather quickly.



IV.3. Washington D.C.

Washington DC is considered among Americans as the capital of the world, because the United States rules the world, and those rules are made in Washington DC. Washington DC was officially created by the American constitution in 1787, and built out of nowhere.

logoW.jpgIts quotation is “Justitia Omnibus” meaning “Justice for all” It reveals the actual concrete power Washingtonians have to created and give justice. It also shows their almightiness and self-proclaimed knowledge of what is good and bad, right and wrong. And thus the right to provide justice to all, according to these values.
As far as twining is concerned, Washington has 10 sister cities and 2 friendships (Rome and Paris). Unlike the two previous cities, the absence of exclusive twining shows that Washingtonians are not exaggeratedly elitist. Indeed, networking is considered more efficient that being elitist. Nevertheless, protection issues and power nods lead it establish friendship ties only with the French and Italian capitals.
Washington DC ‘s global structure is a grid. Created on purpose by L’Enfant for its convenience, with diagonals to make sure it would not become tiring. Although it was planned by a French architect, the grid pattern is very American in the sense that is answers the American need ?for efficiency. It is a pragmatic structure which allows people to go straight from one point to another, similar to the typical American speech. There is no need to turn around and endlessly define things before saying what one needs and wants. It is also reminiscent of reminds American humor, mostly first degree jokes (straight from one point to the other). Some commonly accepted jokes on some defined stereotypes are also possible under some kind of agreement; they are in some way the diagonals of the grid.

There is also no overall architectural style in the city. But some classical monuments and buildings in Washington DC are very diverse. It is not striking to see a very modern glass building next to a castle-looking one. The diversity of the architecture can be seen as a reminder of the importance of individual rights. Each one has the right to have its own house and to choose what it would look like. Eclecticism is promoted over unity. Furthermore, the Washington DC transportation system confirms this trend. The focus is on cars as the perfect individual transportation mean, thus public transportations are strongly developed. ? cars or public? There are 5 metro lines in Washington DC (around 86 metro stations), and 1 railway station. Cars and roads are the best transportation mean to go straight from one point to another, and it comforts individual rights over collective one, as Washingtonians do.
About green areas, there are several small green areas in Washington DC, and one big park. Rock creek park is what would be considered in Europe a “wild garden” as it represents a real peace of land more than a sophisticated garden. The purpose is to enjoy a real natural place. And to perpetuate the fashion/garden metaphor, in the UnitedStates, fashion as garden are focused on comfort/nature and well-being. It doesn’t matter if one lacks style as long as we are comfortable and enjoy what is actually good for our body and health. It is interesting to note here that Washington DC is the second most healthy city of the united states, ranking behind Minneapolis and just before Boston.
Finally, over 15 to 20 different religions are represented in Washington DC, among which 10 different Christian confessions, and Buddhists, Muslims, Jewish, Hindu, Agnosctics This religious presence reminds the fact that the United States is first of all a nation of immigrants. And that immigration in the UnitedStates is about gathering and mixing all incoming cultures to make a newly owned one. Strong common values are to be kept (the will to start a new, the believing in something bigger…), and individual specificities and culture are welcomed as long as they do not contradict the overarching principles. The presence of many religious places all together, but each on their “landmarks”, is relevant of this tolerant and individual society.



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It is very hard to define a whole culture, whether it is for a country or a city. Building on stereotypes, it is then really difficult to choose relevant elements that can overcome a biased analysis. Above all, there is an obvious personal interpretation of each chosen symbol according to its surrounding society, but personal interpretation is unavoidable and must be taken into consideration.
However, acknowledging that cities and their citizen are coming from a mutual teaching/ learning/ building process, there is nothing striking in the idea that buildings and facilities are complying to people’s mind and habits. And Considering that Rome, Paris and Washington DC are all so-called “Capital of the World”, and share a great deal of baroque architecture, makes it a very interesting combo to study. This study highlighted that the way a city is built tells a lot about the culture and shape of mind of people that inhabits it. Fortunately not everyone thinks alike inside each city, and that is part of the urban culture.
It would be interesting to look at these three city with a more architectural or sociological background in order to go deeper in the analysis of each the cultural and the structural part of the argument.



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