Environmental variables shape cities in ways that range from how streets are laid out to whether air conditioning is mandatory, writes Roger K. Lewis, a professor emeritus of architecture. In an essay in the Real Estate section of The Washington Post, he compares how natural factors shaped three cities in which he has lived: Houston, Boston and Washington, D.C.Roger K. Lewis

Throughout history, location-specific climate, topography, hydrology, geophysical factors and biospheres have shaped — and sometimes threatened or destroyed — built environments worldwide. This is why many cities look different, why overall urban form, architecture and housing can differ considerably from city to city.

Most of us rarely think about the influence of Mother Nature on the history, culture, design, character and livability of places we occupy. When people consider where to settle, they usually start with a geographic choice — city or suburb — often based on personal familiarity, employment opportunities, family proximity and cost of living.

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