This impression of enormous size is peculiar to America, and can be felt everywhere, in town and country alike: I have experienced it along the coast and on the plateaux of central Brazil, in the Bolivian Andes and the Colorado Rockies, in the suburbs of Rio, the outskirts of Chicago and the streets of New York... The feeling of unfamiliarity comes simply from the fact that the relationship between the size of human beings and the size of the objects around them has been so distended as to cancel out any possibility of a common measure... [T]he congenital lack of proportion between the two worlds [America and Europe] permeates and distorts our judgements. Those who maintain that New York is ugly are simply the victims of an illusion of the senses. Not having yet learnt to move into a different register, they persist in judging New York as a town, and criticize the avenues, parks and monuments. And no doubt, objectively, New York is a town, but a European sensibility perceives it according to a quite different scale, the scale of European landscapes; whereas the American landscapes transport us into a far vaster system for which we have no equivalent. The beauty of New York has to do not with its being a town, but with the fact, obvious as soon as we abandon our preconceptions, that it transposes the town to the level of an artificial landscape in which the principles of urbanism cease to operate, the only significant values being the rich velvety quality of the light, the sharpness of distant outlines, the awe-inspiring precipices between the skyscrapers and the somber valleys, dotted with multicoloured cars looking like flowers. 

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, pp.95-96