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James H Kunstler dissects suburbia.
November 17, 2011 4:24 PM   Subscribe


 
The situationists coined the word "psychogeography," long ago.
Long live Raoul Vaneigem and the revolution of everyday life.
posted by emhutchinson at 4:38 PM on November 17, 2011


Suburbia and the attendent sprawl is the worst thing America ever invented
posted by crayz at 4:41 PM on November 17, 2011


I skipped ahead to 6:00 and he was doing Boston City Hall. So painfully horrible. It's not just suburbia.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:43 PM on November 17, 2011


"There's not enough Prozac in the world to make people feel okay about going down this block."

It's nice to know that someone out there seems to understand that poor design isn't just depressing to weirdo hoity toity designery people and intellectuals who like to debate about anything and everything. Poor design effects everyone who comes in contact with it, perhaps in ways they don't necessarily think about or realize.
posted by trackofalljades at 4:48 PM on November 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


YouTube, with captions (if you like); and The captions, copied directly from the SRT spit out by Mike's YouTube CC ripper. It doesn't read easily, but it's the best I could find, for those who can't watch the video, or want to skim the text.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:55 PM on November 17, 2011


Or, I guess you could read the transcript on the link.
posted by found missing at 4:59 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah-aha. Yes, that link to the right of the TED video. Aherm.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:00 PM on November 17, 2011


I love that he makes fun of the public school designs referring to the students as "inmates" because in my hometown, that sort of actually happened.

When the county decided that at long last, it was time to add another high school because the current infrastructure was overcrowded beyond function, who did they call in? The highly successful architects who had designed correctional facilities! Great idea right? You just eliminate a couple of fences, you add more bathrooms, and there you go it's a great big cheap-to-build structure with lots of little rooms and wide hallways and simple navigation right! No need to go to all the trouble of actually planning out something original and designed from the ground up for the purpose at hand (or maybe it was, and that's how administrators think of children, that's a whole other subject).

So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, wouldn't you know it, to this day, no matter who they hire and no matter how they redistrict and no matter what programs and classes and other activities are going on, that school still has consistently more problems with violence than any other (even though they're all now theoretically operating with a much better teacher to student ratio).

Why? I dunno, maybe it could possibly be that a prison looks and feels like a prison.
posted by trackofalljades at 5:03 PM on November 17, 2011 [27 favorites]


Seems like a "shock jock" comedian. I'm not impressed by that kind of presentation, for educational or recreational purposes.

Also, he spent the bulk of his time comparing the BACKs of buildings to the FRONTs of buildings. Yes, the backs of buildings are bland. That's where delivers come and go. It's also backed up to a ROAD.

He's also completely omits the *need* to protect a building from people who the business owner in fact does not want associated with their business (occupiers ...). This is a genuine need. Otherwise business owners spend the first couple hours of their day cleaning vomit and poo off their doorstep.

There's also a significant lack of funding discussed in his presentation. Sure! It'd be great to have a beautiful building from all angles. But maybe that architectural firm that said "fuck it" on the Boston building design said "fuck it" because Boston didn't pony up enough cash to spend more time on it.
posted by LoudMusic at 5:27 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, did you and I watch the same presentation?
posted by found missing at 5:32 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, the back of Boston City hall is facing a large busy area with a lot of people, and civic buildings are not supermarkets. It certainly could have been designed to create a more welcoming place.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:34 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Boston City Hall is the building LoudMusic is referring to? LoudMusic, have you been there? It stands isolated on an enormous expanse of space. Its rear doesn't exactly face an alley.
posted by found missing at 5:43 PM on November 17, 2011


It's also backed up to a ROAD.

OMG A ROAD??? FEEL FREE TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE SHIT THEN!!!!

But maybe that architectural firm that said "fuck it" on the Boston building design said "fuck it" because Boston didn't pony up enough cash to spend more time on it.

He is not blaming the architectural firm, he is blaming the attitude that all aspects of a building are not worth spending money, time and energy on to make sure that they best create a positive public space around them, whether that attitude comes from ignorant civic planners or ignorant architects, or ignorant metafilter commenters.
posted by ericost at 5:44 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's note that this TED Talk is seven (7) years old. That doesn't invalidate its message, but I'm just sayin'. A few things have actually changed since then.

He says IM Pei designed the Boston City Hall Plaza, but that's incorrect. Pei did the master plan for the entire Government Center Complex, but the the plaza itself was designed by City Hall architects Kalmann and McKinnell. And if he extolls cathedral squares he shouldn't knock that plaza. The failure is not in the design, it's a failure to put it to a good variety of uses and create some life there.

Generally, though, his message is right on.
posted by beagle at 5:53 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I enjoy reading or hearing Kunstler but I always get the impression he positively masturbates to the thought that the fall of oil-powered civilization will mean the end of Walmart and suburbia. It makes me take his eager doomsaying a bit less seriously (not that I think the end of cheap oil isn't a big deal). (also not that I'm defending walmart and suburbia)
posted by fleetmouse at 5:56 PM on November 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Kunstler is an entertaining half-savant/half-crank. LoudMusic is right about the "shock jock" approach; he makes sweeping statements that brook no exception, he doesn't back up much of what he says and he reinforces his point with humor, sometimes of a pretty crude nature.

I think he's got a lot of great points about architecture, some decent points about energy, and a lot of completely unsupported assertions regarding energy. The primary problem is that the devil really is in the details, and he never delves into those details. I have to admit that I haven't read his books, but I've probably read most of the stuff on his website.

Specifically, I think that his expectations of a peak oil catastrophe are extremely premature. He might be right, but it all really depends factors that are be very hard to measure or predict, like what kinds of technologies will come online at what time and how much oil reserves does this planet have. And even those two questions are intertwined, because the question of reserves depends on what you can fruitfully extract, and that, of course, depends on technology.

My other problem with Kunstler is what fleetmouse described: that he's clearly gleeful at the prospect of society crumbling into mayhem so that something more authentic can eventually take its place.
posted by Edgewise at 6:01 PM on November 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Previously

(I liked that article so much it was one of the reasons I began subscribing to The Atlantic, or Atlantic Monthly, or whatever they call themselves. Via {actually an older part of his website but can't find it right now})
posted by TedW at 6:05 PM on November 17, 2011


I skipped ahead to 6:00 and he was doing Boston City Hall.

Thankfully few people are doing real Brutalist architecture these days. Certain buildings at SFU on top of Burnaby Mountain in the Vancouver area share common design elements with the FBI headquarters and Boston City Hall. They're a product of a certain weird 1960s architectural movement that thankfully has passed on. Another urban example would be the MacMillan Bloedel Building (aka the concrete waffle) in Vancouver.
posted by thewalrus at 6:10 PM on November 17, 2011


For those who haven't seen it: Brutalist Architecture.
posted by thewalrus at 6:12 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


"...and a lot of completely unsupported assertions regarding energy. "

Well, except that we hear a lot of whining from typical rightwing sources that green/alternative energy of various kinds will never in a million years replace our righteous and beautiful oil industry (Hi Mr. Koch!), so we'd better just get down to burning as much methane as we can find. I'm not saying he's totally correct and able to predict the future (although I haven't read his books either); but I am saying that the solutions he's suggesting - a variety of small scale developments, and conservation - are not taken seriously because the energy industry in N. America is against those kinds of solutions, because they're not profitable at scales that work for Big Oil/Coal (this idea was current 30 years ago). Plus some of them are distributed systems, which is downright anti-Capitalist.

That's the kind of thing that makes me think Kunstler is more right than wrong, and that we're going to continue down the current path until we're forced to change.
posted by sneebler at 6:21 PM on November 17, 2011


Thankfully few people are doing real Brutalist architecture these days.

It's been gone for thirty year or so now, so it's probably ripe for revival.
posted by octothorpe at 6:23 PM on November 17, 2011


If you strip away his disgust and schadenfreude, Kunstler's point is no less valid
Having been a reader of his off and on since before there were blogs, much of what he prognosts about the future has been right on.
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:24 PM on November 17, 2011


Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere are both really good books if you tend to feel that there's something deeply wrong with the way that the suburbs, and most everything else built in America since World War 2. Kunstler turns down the hyperbole in those books--but they're certainly not dry.

But unless you care about the peak oil stuff, Kunstler really hasn't said anything new in the last ten years. His blog posts--the ones that aren't about how society is on the brink of collapse--just reiterate what he wrote about in the 90s. I've stopped reading him. He's just waaaaay too cranky these days.

His crankiness makes Ron Paul look like Oprah Winfrey.
posted by mcmile at 6:41 PM on November 17, 2011


FuppedDuck> Having been a reader of his off and on since before there were blogs, much of what he prognosts about the future has been right on.

What? Back in 2005, he was ready to declare a then-spike in natural gas prices as the beginning of the end:
Half the houses in America are heated with natural gas and most of them are elsewhere than the Gulf Coast. On the markets, the price of gas is now heading north of $15 a unit (1000 cubic feet). It could easily hit $20 by Christmas, which would be about 700 percent higher than the price in 2002. Everyone in the non-Sunbelt is going to feel the pain this winter, and quite a few of the poor and infirm may freeze to death.
This is going to be a whole new kind of crisis for America and will set off a new kind of political fury.
Of course, it was nothing of the sort. Natural gas prices plummeted instead.

That pales next to his biggest blunder: Kunstler was betting that Y2K was going to be an apocalyptic event. Called on it, he argues that the Y2K nonevent was "an early apprehension of the dangers of growing hypercomplexity", and that the global economic crisis of the past few years can be ... traced back to it or something.

Given that he goes on and on about "political correctness", you'd think he'd avoid this sort of babbling postmodernism. But Kunstler believes in one thing above all: listening to himself talk.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 6:42 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


We have about, you know, 38,000 places that are not worth caring about in the United States today. When we have enough of them, we're going to have a nation that's not worth defending. And I want you to think about that when you think about those young men and women who are over in places like Iraq, spilling their blood in the sand, and ask yourself, "What is their last thought of home?" I hope it's not the curb cut between the Chuck E. Cheese and the Target store because that's not good enough for Americans to be spilling their blood for. (Applause)

Really? He said that? And people clapped?

Maybe he didn't grow up in the suburbs, but I did. Potomac, Maryland. Built in the late 1960s. I lived on a street with a cul-de-sac and no sidewalk and it was a 15 minute walk to where I could catch the bus to the mall. Is that ideal urban design? No. But was it a place, distinct from other places, with a real identity, a place I called home? Of course it was. Was it a place worth caring about? Of course it was. If I were a soldier dying in a foreign place, and my last thought was of the deli in the strip mall where my family used to go every week when I was a kid, well, is that a reason to pity me? Of course it's not.

To sum up, screw this guy.
posted by escabeche at 6:51 PM on November 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


Also: I will admit that I have no memory of the back of Boston City Hall. But the front is a marvel -- all these rectilinear forms just kind of floating in space, separated from you by this vast bricked plain. I don't know if it functions well for the people who work there, and if it doesn't, then that's bad. But it's an thing of beauty that takes you by surprise as you come out of an ordinary Boston street, and shocks you into noticing your surroundings. That is worth something. It's part of what cities are for!
posted by escabeche at 6:55 PM on November 17, 2011


MetaFilter: the owners spend the first couple hours of their day cleaning vomit and poo off their doorstep
posted by hippybear at 6:56 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


One suburb of Birmingham was so poorly designed and constructed that it became the nomenclature for bad urban planning; "Huntsville is starting to look like a giant Hoover." Endless parking lots divided by service stations with nothing green for miles.

They're starting to come around now, forty years later - it all looks like little faux villages, divided by service stations. Ugh.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:00 PM on November 17, 2011


It's [Brutalism] been gone for thirty year or so now, so it's probably ripe for revival.

Maybe it's just me, but I've really been coming to like Brutalism as a style more and more recently.

I don't think the problem with places like Boston City Hall is the Brutalist style. I think it's the complete disconnect between the building and its environment, the need for every new commercial or civic building to feel like a little bubble away from the society that surrounds it. But that's not particular to Brutalism; Chicago is littered with these dreadful new-construction ersatz Prairie-style buildings—basically supermarket-type boxes with a couple "Frank Lloyd Wright" windows and decorative fake brick tacked onto the side—which are just as isolated (by parking lots, by "landscaping") from the streetscape, and just as dysfunctional, as anything made out of geometrically-massed raw concrete.

The building I live in was built as a car dealership in 1925, with apartments above. It fronts directly on the sidewalk and blends in very nicely with the surrounding street. The main entrance is the pedestrian entrance. Can you imagine anyone building a car dealership like that today? With apartments? It would never happen, but that has nothing to do with the style of architecture or the amount of ornament you tack on.
posted by enn at 7:04 PM on November 17, 2011


I have frequently crossed Boston City Hall Plaza. It is dead. In winter, a season that occurs frequently in New England, you are unprotected from the cold winds as you cross it. I'm sure it looks good from a distance or as a sketch. Great; put it in a video game.

As for the back of City Hall: you leave the crowded neighborliness of the North End, cross the lively (though rather tourist-y) Quincy Market area, and everything comes to a stop as you face tall walls rising up to absolutely nothing, waiting for the green "WALK" sign. If it weren't for the near-by traffic these walls would be perfect for lining people up against and shooting.

I am not a fan.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:06 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't have a really good, visceral idea of how bad America's spaces are is until I started traveling for work. I can get off a plane in any city in America, and I can predict with a high rate of accuracy exactly what I will be seeing when I get out of the airport. It's depressing. Target, Wal-Mart, Chili's. Exit 108B.

It's... remarkable.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I agree with almost everything that Kunstler has to say about our decimated small towns, sprawl, suburbia, the shocking prevalence of brain dead design... but I totally agree that dude jerks off thinking about the post peak oil collapse, and possibly the late 19th century as well.

Has anyone read "World Made By Hand"? Dude has some pretty dismissive attitudes about women. That doesn't make him wrong about everything, but, as a woman, it does make it really tough for me to take him seriously.
posted by Leta at 8:30 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why? I dunno, maybe it could possibly be that a prison looks and feels like a prison.

Parts of the the Prince George's County (Maryland) Correctional Center looks exactly like my first elementary school, only with barbed wire. It was creepy when I first noticed it.

Maybe he didn't grow up in the suburbs, but I did. Potomac, Maryland. Built in the late 1960s. I lived on a street with a cul-de-sac and no sidewalk and it was a 15 minute walk to where I could catch the bus to the mall. Is that ideal urban design? No. But was it a place, distinct from other places, with a real identity, a place I called home? Of course it was. Was it a place worth caring about? Of course it was. If I were a soldier dying in a foreign place, and my last thought was of the deli in the strip mall where my family used to go every week when I was a kid, well, is that a reason to pity me? Of course it's not.

To sum up, screw this guy.


I totally agree with a lot of the criticism, both aesthetic and practical, of suburbia, but way too often, we confuse criticizing bad design with criticizing places where real people live and are happy. I've lived in the suburbs; it's not ideal, but I have plenty of happy memories there with the big lawn and my family's many (5) cars. There's a reason people are attracted to these places, and there's a reason they can ugly and unsustainable, but we're not really going to solve the problems of them if we don't at least recognize that they are home to plenty of people. People who are not stupid or philistines.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:43 PM on November 17, 2011


Leta - I read "World Made by Hand" and it was pretty terrible. And yes - the ladies know their place is in the kitchen/ garden and leave the decision making to the menfolk because that is the "natural order" was part of what made it terrible. Part.
posted by mkim at 8:56 PM on November 17, 2011


I have not read that, and I was not aware of his apparently sexist views. That bums me out.
posted by ericost at 8:59 PM on November 17, 2011


It would be fun to get Mr. Kuntzler's take on the newly proposed Apple headquarters.
posted by newdaddy at 9:32 PM on November 17, 2011


he spent the bulk of his time comparing the BACKs of buildings to the FRONTs of buildings. Yes, the backs of buildings are bland. That's where delivers come and go. It's also backed up to a ROAD.

The SF city hall has a beautiful front, a beautiful back and two beautiful sides. Yet I don't think they have a problem with deliveries getting through. And there are roads on all four sides.
posted by alexei at 10:20 PM on November 17, 2011


Thankfully few people are doing real Brutalist architecture these days. Certain buildings at SFU on top of Burnaby Mountain in the Vancouver area share common design elements with the FBI headquarters and Boston City Hall. They're a product of a certain weird 1960s architectural movement that thankfully has passed on. Another urban example would be the MacMillan Bloedel Building (aka the concrete waffle) in Vancouver.

Both designed by the same guy. Coincidence?
posted by e-man at 10:30 PM on November 17, 2011


Yeah, Kunstler sometimes comes across as a crank. But to quote E.F. Schumacher (also often derided as a crank): "A crank is a very elegant device. It's small, it's strong, it's lightweight, energy efficient... and it makes revolutions".
posted by e-man at 10:36 PM on November 17, 2011


Oh yeah, and this: if schadenfreude could be harnessed as an energy source, Kunstler could power the entire eastern seaboard.
posted by e-man at 10:39 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have not read that, and I was not aware of his apparently sexist views. That bums me out.

I haven't read the book, but have heard interviews, and a podcast where he talks about this. His suggestion is that a resurgence in fundamentalism in the post-peak oil society will have a number of societal effects, including more violence, racism and sexism.
I think it is kind of like criticising A Handmaid's Tale for the sexist mores of that society. It's not something Margaret Atwood or Kunstler hope for.

His views on tattoos, however, would play very, very badly on Mefi.
posted by bystander at 12:00 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I liked his rant. If you don't understand what Kunstler is railing about try getting around and doing things without a car. It makes you realize that so many modern cities only make sense from inside a car. On foot a city can actually feel quite hostile and unwelcoming. On foot you have less patience for places which are ugly, depressing and/or dangerous. I wonder why anyone would defend the type of American urbanism Kunstler has identified; is it that hard to think, yeah I guess we could do it better next time.
posted by vicx at 4:23 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: I will admit that I have no memory of the back of Boston City Hall. But the front is a marvel -- all these rectilinear forms just kind of floating in space, separated from you by this vast bricked plain. I don't know if it functions well for the people who work there, and if it doesn't, then that's bad. But it's an thing of beauty that takes you by surprise as you come out of an ordinary Boston street, and shocks you into noticing your surroundings. That is worth something. It's part of what cities are for!


No, it's not.

Cities are for living. Museums and Quake levels are for having "shocking" visual experiences.

When you work in a place day in, day out, or even pass by it every day, like me, you want that place to comfort you, and recede into the background so you can comfortably get on with your day. Think "stucco-covered German village" level of comfort. When your environment "shocks you into noticing your surroundings", it gets tiresome and unpleasant, very very quickly. The only saving grace for Boston City Hall is that when people hold political demonstrations there, their sincerity can be assumed, since nobody gathers around there for the fun of it.
posted by ocschwar at 5:55 AM on November 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Cathedrals aren't for living, either. They're the shock and awe of their day. This is the House of God, come and respect his power. Sure, it is made by the hands of man, but cathedrals are not built on the precious "human scale" that is one key goal of New Urbanism.

escabeche: Maybe he didn't grow up in the suburbs, but I did. Potomac, Maryland. Built in the late 1960s. I lived on a street with a cul-de-sac and no sidewalk and it was a 15 minute walk to where I could catch the bus to the mall.

Kunstler doesn't break down the types of suburbs and the variations in sprawl. There are the "charming" suburbs and there is suburban hell. The charming suburbs are more expensive to build, retaining some "nature bandaids" between houses, maybe a pond here and there (in areas that support natural year-round ponds). Then there are the tract houses with little yards, the epitome of Little Boxes. They exist to meet some demand for housing, and maximize the developer's return on investments, no concern for how people will ever live there.

While both are fail to meet the ideals of New Urbanism (Smart Growth, Transit-Oriented Development, or whatever else you'd like to call "walkable cities"), the charming suburb with some public transit is a whole lot better than ticky-tacky towns that go on for miles, and tie people to their cars.

Yet somehow, perhaps from lingering concerns about living near the Noisy, Dirty Big City, or desire to have some of that American Dream with a little yard of your own, or the lure of inexpensive housing (ignoring the cost of getting anywhere else), suburbia is the housing style of choice for many people. Compact development is a hard sell, getting cozy with your neighbors, losing your "personal space" of a little back yard with some trees and maybe a vegetable patch or a flower garden. And I think that is the bigger problem: how do you move people from the comforts of suburbia into a walkable neighborhood? You could re-zone suburban blocks, designating little areas for commercial development, hope that people would actually walk to their local market, instead of driving to the outlet malls to save on purchases in bulk.

Waiting and hoping for Peak Oil to force us is not going to work. Local produce is great, but what about local products? Are we really going to get a pen factory in every post-oil town? Will office products and cookware be made in every county? There's a lot more that's traveling on the roads, rails, sea and air than heads of lettuce and chicken dinners.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:35 AM on November 18, 2011


how do you move people from the comforts of suburbia into a walkable neighborhood?

Easy: you force them to grow up among "the comforts of suburbia", especially during their teen years, and you don't give them a car. (They can have one if they can afford it, sure, but it can't be a gift.) Presto, you've just created an intense aversion to anything resembling suburbia, and a corresponding desire to live in an active, walkable neighborhood with decent transit!

Worked for me, anyway.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:43 AM on November 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


I haven't read the book, but have heard interviews, and a podcast where he talks about this. His suggestion is that a resurgence in fundamentalism in the post-peak oil society will have a number of societal effects, including more violence, racism and sexism.
I think it is kind of like criticising A Handmaid's Tale for the sexist mores of that society. It's not something Margaret Atwood or Kunstler hope for.


Well, maybe you should read the book before you start making assumptions. It wasn’t just the sexism, though. What really comes through in the writing is the contempt he clearly has for much of humanity and, yes, the gleeful schadenfreude. I picked up the book after having read many of Kunstler’s peak oil prognostications and thought I would enjoy his speculative fiction about it. I came away from the book never, ever wanting to meet this person.
posted by mkim at 1:45 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, it was just not a very good book in general, in my opinion, so maybe you are better off, bystander, by not reading it at all!
posted by mkim at 1:49 PM on November 18, 2011


Maybe he didn't grow up in the suburbs, but I did. Potomac, Maryland. Built in the late 1960s. I lived on a street with a cul-de-sac and no sidewalk and it was a 15 minute walk to where I could catch the bus to the mall. Is that ideal urban design? No. But was it a place, distinct from other places, with a real identity, a place I called home? Of course it was. Was it a place worth caring about? Of course it was. If I were a soldier dying in a foreign place, and my last thought was of the deli in the strip mall where my family used to go every week when I was a kid, well, is that a reason to pity me? Of course it's not.


I grew up in a parking lot where every parking spot came with a house (Mississauga). It was the only childhood home I ever really had and the only existence I knew for the first 22 years of my life. I knew it was boring and dull and that there was something weird about being part of a roaming bmx pack of feral youth with nothing to do but cycle from strip mall to strip mall eating pizza and drinking cola. However, the pieces of the puzzle didn't come together until I had experience living in other places that were mostly smaller cities (Guelph, London, On and Ottawa, On). Big City North American suburban life is terrible and impoverished for both kids and adults and I really didn't think there was a solution.

Then I moved to England and I have to say that the village style English suburb kicks ass. My quality of life is through the roof on the dimensions that North American suburbs scored zero on. I can walk to every store I need. Density is high but not high-rise. Walking in the neighbourhood is pleasant. There are no empty souless lunar lawnscapes. I don't need a car and I don't own one. I can cycle downtown. It just barely makes up for living in England with its high cost of living, lack of a real summer, lack of Wendy's, lack of Ruffles potato chips, litter, and the frownie dour pessimistic people. But it does. And that is shocking given how much I miss optimistic smiling Canadian people.

My wife and I have wanted to move back to our home continent since we moved here but after this past month visiting Charlottesville, VA and being stuck in an outlying libertarian style suburb with zero walk or cycleability (the kind of place we would likely afford) we are now not in any hurry at all. It just doesn't seem like a sane or healthy way to live anymore. And sanity and health matter more to me now that I have them than yard size or square footage.
posted by srboisvert at 2:32 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Public spaces that aren't built on a human scale usually aren't compatible with use by humans. This is less of an opinion than it is a fact.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:51 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


he spent the bulk of his time comparing the BACKs of buildings to the FRONTs of buildings. Yes, the backs of buildings are bland. That's where delivers come and go. It's also backed up to a ROAD.

The the examples he shows as positive follow a block structure, in which all roads run along the fronts of buildings. As alexei mentioned above, if a city hall takes up an entire block, there's no reason why all sides can't be 'good' sides. The building needs to be built in recognition of the fact that millions of human hours will be spent encountering all sides of the building over centuries of use.
posted by romanb at 5:17 AM on November 19, 2011


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