I recently watched a lecture on the dismal failure that is community design in America. James Howard Kunstler gives a powerful and insightful look at "places not worth caring about", and how we come to have so many of them. I heartily agree with many of his concerns and conclusions, and I hope to spend time in Europe grokking what makes spaces alive and worth caring about.
PNT: What I found interesting about Kunstler's indictment of failed [sub]urbanism in the US is that many of the proposed remedies have a very pronounced European feel to them. It seems to me that one of the things that makes Americans abroad so delighted by the architecture and layout of the cities is that we simply don't get it around here. Quaint streets, narrow pedestrian alleys, bustling squares, and quiet courtyards are not attractive because they're merely novel; I think they provide us with something that we're just not GETTING in much of American. Un certain "je ne sais quoi", if you will. No wonder all these new strip malls and housing developments are trying to channel Tuscany or provincial France.