Hilfreichste kritische Rezenzion
small town extraterrestrial visits modern city
am 26. November 1999
This is something of a sightseeing tour through the depredations of modern urban design. Highly anecdotal in its approach, choppy in style, it covers no real new ground. It is, however, a useful survey of current criticism of urban planning. I was distressed to see his bibliography contained no mention of Jane Jacob's 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities'-- the seminal work taking to task the concepts manifested in suburban wastelands and decaying inner cities. Kunstler's approach swings between vague economic, historic and philosophical tracts and some fairly well traveled material on building and urban design theories. The most prominent villain in this take is the car. This really doesn't provide a useful starting point for designing more livable cities. Not unless you acknowledge that the car is here to stay, and that urban design will have to come grips with its presence and still aspire to build cities which provide intense community centred cultures.
Urban design reflects directly our values as a society. Answers as fundamental as Kunstler is proposing cannot be broached successfully without changing those values. That is an idealistic and realistically futile prospect. The vocal and activist polarities on this issue, the utopian and maudlin pragmatic, dictate the limited attention and action it gets in the political reality. Railing against the automobile, corporate priorities, environmental inattention or our alienation from the homogenous communities of our past will finally relegate the issue to a few academics and misanthropes. The real solution, such as one exists, is going to have to come from a consensus which realizes that population growth, economic realities, automobiles, and social heterogeneity are going to be part of our future and have to be incorporated in a far from perfect outcome. But one which will hopefully ensure human and community values have a presence and priority in planning decisions. The potential trap is that a new paradigm replaces the last with some faddish design manifesto completely inappropriate to many local conditions, imposing some sentimental pastiche on problems which are not primarily architectural in nature. Like environmentalism, city design works best at the involved community level, where unique urban aspirations can be iterated with economic and ergonomic necessity.