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Is Cuenca beautiful? (Part 2)

By Gil Castle

This is the second article in a two-part series. The first article posited that beautiful cities can be analyzed using 15 categories of civic beauty. The 15 categories — the 15 “Beautiful Facets” — emerge from research conducted by CitiesBeautiful.org [http://citiesbeautiful.org/] on “common threads” in theories of beauty from the ancient Greece to the present day. Cities widely acknowledged as beautiful inevitably have notable buildings, parks, and other civic features encompassing most if not all of the Beautiful Facets.

Cuenca has notable civic features matching the 15 Beautiful Facets. The first article explored matches for seven of the Beautiful Facets. This article evaluates matches for the remaining eight Beautiful Facets.

The first article also noted that the Cities Beautiful website includes a free psychometric test [http://citiesbeautiful.org/civic-beauty-ranking-test] with which visitors can determine which of the Beautiful Facets resonate with them the most. The perception of beauty is both an emotional and intellectual process, involving all our senses.

This article begins with the Beautiful Facet called “Epiphany.” You’ll see that each Beautiful Facet is briefly defined, followed by examples from around the world, and finally an example of that Beautiful facet in Cuenca. (I am citing one example from among multiple examples that typically are available for each of the Beautiful Facets.)

Though ultimately you must decide for yourself, ample evidence exists that Cuenca is indeed beautiful!

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EPIPHANY – Beautiful experiences epitomizing that which may not be provable, frequently is spiritual, always is a leap of faith, while simultaneously validate one’s sense of self-worth and even transcendence. Typical civic features: churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other places of worship.  Examples worldwide: Temple of Heaven (Beijing, China), Golden Temple (Armritsar, India), Golden Pavilion (Kyoto, Japan), and in Cuenca –the Old Cathedral, among 50+ churches.

SURETY – Beautiful experiences issuing from a secure, reliable, consistent, and predictable environment. Examples worldwide: military installations, museums, and memorials, as well as lighthouses. Examples worldwide: Nijo Castle (Kyoto, Japan), Gwalior Fort (Gwalior, India), Castel Sant’Angelo (Rome, Italy), and in Cuenca – the 911 Call Center.

REVELATION – Beautiful experiences deriving from investigating, evaluating and assimilating pieces of life’s endless complexity, including not only the knowledge gained but also the gratification of solving a puzzle. Typical civic features: science museums, highly specialized boutique museums, and single artist museums (e.g., Picasso, Miro, Monet). Examples worldwide: Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, USA), Exploratorium (San Francisco, USA), Rodin Museum (Paris, France), and in Cuenca – Broken Bridge (Puente Roto) Art Center.

DYNAMISM – Beautiful experiences streaming from energetic rather than static circumstances, whether one is stationary or in motion, and when environs are changing by time of day, seasons of the year, etc. Typical civic features: various transit systems (e.g., cable cars), promenades, walking/hiking/bicycling trails, scenic drives, and fireworks/light shows. Examples worldwide: Sugarloaf Mountain Cable Car (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Gondolas (Venice, Italy), Staten Island Ferry (New York, USA), and in Cuenca – 26+ kilometers of dedicated bicycle lanes.

SELF-FULFILLMENT– Beautiful experiences arising not only from recognizing and enjoying a state of self actualization — “be all that you can be” — but also from being able to competently contribute back to the world (i.e., not wasting one’s precious life, not just taking up space). Typical civic features: Olympic stadiums and similar sports venues, houses of parliament, and performance halls for opera, symphony, ballet, etc. Examples worldwide: Teatro alla Scala (Milan, Italy), National/Olympic Stadium (Beijing, China), Dr. Sun Yat Sen Museum (Hong Kong, China), and in Cuenca – Coliseo Jefferson Perez.

SELFHOOD – Beautiful experiences launched by surroundings that contribute to and resonate with one’s positive self-image. Typical civic features: pride-based monuments and parades, cultural institutions, ethnic arts/crafts markets, emerging artists galleries, and prominent shopping streets. Examples worldwide: Statue of Liberty (New York, USA), Tiananmen Square (Beijing, China), Place de la Bastille (Paris, France), and in Cuenca – Multi-Day Celebration of Cuenca Independence Day (Tres de Noviembre).

SYNERGY – Beautiful experiences leveraging off the simultaneous stimulation of two or more senses, i.e., “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Typical civic features: multi-sensory festivals, theme parks, cabarets/dinner theaters, extensive shopping/entertainment complexes. Examples worldwide: Festivals — Mardi Gras, Burning Man, etc. (USA), Cabarets – Moulin Rouge, Le Lido, etc. (Paris, France), Other Events – Circuses, Rock Concerts, etc., and in Cuenca – Corpus Christi and numerous other festivals annually.

Kinship – Beautiful experiences flowing from a highly agreeable, distinctive social and cultural environment, especially when “everyone knows your name and they’re always glad you came.” Typical civic features: distinct neighborhoods, festival, ethnic and racial institutes, and nightlife districts. Examples worldwide: Greenwich Village (New York, USA), Latin Quarter (Paris, France), Aberdeen Floating Village (Hong Kong, China), and in Cuenca – the Pase del Niño and innumerable parades year-round.

No doubt you can think of more examples for each of the Beautiful Facets, and I certainly encourage you to do so. Again, ample evidence exists that Cuenca is indeed beautiful!
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Gil Castle founded CitiesBeautiful.org [http://citiesbeautiful.org/] in 2013 to promote greater understanding and appreciation of beautiful cities worldwide. The website currently has detailed interactive maps pinpointing 1,800 beautiful places in 25 cities on six continents. Among many other components, the website also has a free e-book with a detailed explanation of the 15 categories of civic beauty, and their application to the 25 mapped cities. Gil and his wife Deborah became permanent residents of beautiful Cuenca in 2010.