Take a look around you and you can see where design exists and where it has been compromised and where it is not much more than aesthetics. Below is a little exploration of a view places around town. A snippet of some of the things that catch my eye.
The day this was taken was a beautiful sunny day, you can get a glimpse of this in a small portion of the above photograph (reflected on the building facade). What this image shows is that there is a dead civic zone. A public space was built into this city block as it is in the heart of the city. What this picture doesn't tell you is that the buildings we're intended to run North-South, not the East-West of their present layout. They were turned to maximize the rentable floor space within each building. The trade-off - blocking all but the briefest amount of sun from this public space thus rendering it cold, windy and otherwise unpleasant, and hence unoccupied. If you do view the space between the two buildings it does frame city hall - which glows brightly in the warm sunshine.
The above office building was gutted some time ago, and they systematically replaced all the windows - to the effect of reinforcing the true "curtain" nature of them (non-structural) as well as showcasing the structure by glazing in front of all of the buildings exterior columns. I'm waiting to see how they develop this exposure and how they plan on interacting with the sidewalk, as the removed the existing portico.
This is a bathroom, not many people take pictures in bathrooms, but you would be surprised how much design can be (or not be) in such a small and very utilitarian space. This particular one has a special layout - the camera is facing the entry point, a window to its back. The stalls are all to the left and there is a fair sized open space to the right with a full length mirror on the wall facing the entry point. The tile is rather bold in its horizontal stripes and the sink area is a bright area with pale blue-green counter top (this same color is repeated in some of the chips in the floor). The question is, why the diagonal path from the door to the sinks? Why is the natural light cubby-holed to the sink area? As you might be able to tell, this diagonal also means the stalls are in a someone stepped formation, also somewhat awkward.
Underground pedestrian concourses are not always the most popular spaces, and although I would agree that this once could use a good cleaning, I think this is a beautiful space. Light pours in from the street above and bounces around off the metallic tiles and back-lit glass block. There is the curve in the ceiling that has a fixture beneath that uplights the round and complements the form. This is part of a much bigger network of tunnels, but this particular portion runs over 3 blocks long under the core street of center city and connects to three transit lines, a shopping center, and the convention center complex all without having you wait to cross a street. I think my bias is showing.