Cities are always more interesting if their look is connected to the work they do, or the story that brought people there in the first place.
Suburban office parks and housing developments, plus strip malls, are depressing wherever you see them, because wherever you see them they look the same. But housing patterns, street layouts, even building styles that are obviously related to local natural or industrial features (a waterfront, a mountain ridge, a giant factory or a mine) – these make a city’s visual texture much more engrossing
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, illustrates this principle at three levels. One of them is obvious and driven by history; the second reflects a deliberate, modern civic decision; and the third is subtle and came as a surprise at least to me.
1) Living history. As every visitor to the city knows, its downtown is still dominated by physical features that spell out its history. Falls Park itself (below), recently restored as a recreation and tourist area. The century-old John Morrell slaughtering center and packing house, which has been a central part of the city's economic and social history and about which there will be more to say. (News update: CFIUS, the U.S. government commission that rules on certain foreign investments in American firms, has just approved -- as it obviously should have -- the sale of Smithfield, parent company of Morrell, to the Shanghhui food company of Shanghai.) The state penitentiary is next to them; stately century-old houses are being restored in a downtown historic district; the skyline is still dominated by the cathedral and the wonderful Henry Richardson-style courthouse, some of which you might make out in this view over the Falls toward the old downtown.