DPZ: NU or Starchitect in Sheep’s Clothing

I found this interesting, at Planetizen: The Quest for a Contemporary Urban Pattern. I haven’t deciphered yet as to whether the vainglorious nature of the title comes from the author of the article or DPZ themselves. If it the former, I apologize to DPZ for the remainder of this article and the writer would be not much of a journalist, but of course, he isn’t. In fact, he comes across more as a cheerleader.

At worst, I find it wishful of the sort that proposes some roof gardens and windmills will make a skyscraper green somehow, if not whimsical, which is the same accusation we like to hurl at guys like Rem. Perhaps, this is why I rarely give a shit about a particular “style” of a building. It’s little more than window dressing. Styles come and styles go, but quality lasts forever. If architects are no more than fashion designers how will we make the difference we claim.

Personally, I find this neverending “quest” rather shallow and arbitrary. It is much the same trap contemporary architects find themselves. Any and every work must be different in some, nay, any manner and the designers heralded for such creativity by their sycophants when underneath the trappings it is really all just more of the same.

In fact, the term “quest” itself really undermines the significant nature of the changes in the mainstream development pattern that need to occur by the underwhelming nature of the “changes” proposed. So, it’s for drainage. Say that. It is by no means some radical new form of city that will save they day. In fact, these things aren’t concocted. Changes in city form are natural outgrowths of the needs (or wants when abundant wealth makes people act rashly and stupidly) of the day.

So as the city is an outgrowth or the physical manifestation of economies and/or human needs twisting a grid a little bit is preposterously superficial (in juxtaposition to the pompous claims) unless fundamental shifts in the economy occur, coordinated with organized and focused needs and desires of communities.

I understand perfectly well the role as architects and designers we must play in shaping the city and steering this ship in some direction, but as I said, such artificial claims of substantial change without the necessary fundamental shifts diminish the cause. Perhaps, this is why Duany himself, despite all of his fame or notoriety in the city planning world has never broken thru to the real powers that be or designed anything that altered a city’s internal functionality in some paradigmatic way despite his incredible rhetorical skills.

Appropriately, out comes Nouriel Roubini warning of a “double dip” recession once the gas (the stimulus) gets put back into the same clunker (the 20th century economy). Commentary by FreeExchange at the Economist (my emphasis in bold):

That may mean that no matter what governments do, oil prices will act as a governor on the world’s (or at least America’s) economic engine. Growth above a certain rate will be sufficient to boost oil demand and prices up, dampening consumer spending and slowing expansion—potentially keeping the American economy from growing at a rate sufficient to decrease unemployment. That will be the dynamic until dependence on oil is sufficiently wrung out of the economy, which could take some time. This is yet another point arguing in favour of a prolonged and shallow recovery for the American economy.

Every aspect of our economy, and in turn, our cities (and vice versa) are defined by the cheap oil of the 20th century. Cities have lasted so long as the primary organization of human civilizations for so long because they are so inherently durable due to their diversity. A homogenous economy/city defined by one potentially volatile element in the equation is foolhardy. Just ask Detroit.

Kunstler adds, in his exclamation Financial Crisis Called Off!:

They seem to think this mass exercise in pretend will resurrect the great march to the WalMarts, to the new car showrooms, and the cul-de-sac model houses, reignite another round of furious sprawl-building…

Or as the Daily Reckoning adds the words to my worries over the last five years pre-dating the collapse, (once again, my emphasis in bold):

The process of de-leveraging will be slow. Maybe five years. Maybe 15. Maybe 25. It will go up and down…with high unemployment (businesses will cut their wage costs as sales fail to recover)…low prices (at least in real terms)…low profits…and slow growth, or none at all.

Is that bad? No, not at all. It’s good. Economies need to adjust to the new realities of the post-credit bubble world. It will take time. And with the world’s financial authorities fighting it every step of the way…it could take a LONG time.

So I’ll end with the oft cited, and over-represented Churchill quote:

We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.

As I stated previously, however, in reality we shape policy, which shapes economies, which then shapes our cities, which then shape us. And that shape is globular and slovenly.


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.