Architects and the “Vision” Thing

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Via Wired, architects Vishaan Chakrabarti and Gregg Pasquarelli discuss how they would improve New York City:

I agree with a couple of their suggestions: more crosstown connections (particularly a crosstown subway) would be nice and fewer cars would be appreciated too. But I was talking with Paleo Retiree about this video and he noted how annoying it is that the underlying assumption is that “visionary,” top-down solutions are what is needed. For example, Mr. Pasquarelli offers that the city would’ve been better off had Central Park been split into two green belts and wants to ban all private cars from city streets. Neither of these solutions ever has the slightest hope of being implemented, so why bother mentioning them?

Some people, like the Wired editors who produced this piece, can’t get enough of wild, swing-for-the-fences visions no matter how implausible or unhelpful they might be. Their models are people Corbusier, Robert Moses, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk. Nevermind that Corbu and Moses wanted to wipe out entire neighborhoods that are the very reasons NYC and Paris remain two of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Doesn’t matter — Corbu and Moses had a bold vision. The idea that architecture is an organic, piecemeal process — how can we improve this particular street? what makes for a good building? what makes for a lively block? how can we improve the pedestrian experience in a blighted part of the city? — doesn’t seem occur to the technocrats and their admirers. To the extent they think about it at all, it’s bush league bullshit.

Paleo Retiree asked, Could you imagine if the other arts, say cooking, carried on this way? I remember a few years ago when patent troll Nathan Myhrvold released his 5-volume, 2,400-page, impeccably designed, and lavishly illustrated $625 summa on molecular gastronomy called Modernist Cooking. The reviews were rapturous. “The most astonishing cookbook of our time,” said the Wall Street Journal. Yet what does Myhrvold’s gargantuan treatise — filled with recipes and equipment that are beyond the resources of 99.99% of the public — have to do with food and cooking as they’re commonly experienced? Why do our cultural mandarins have such an aversion to practical pleasure?

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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1 Response to Architects and the “Vision” Thing

  1. seanledden says:

    Thanks for the interesting comments on the video. Reminds me of when I read Jane Jacob’s “On the Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Corbu, in particular, is terrifying. But on the other hand, all across America we have urban and semi-urban spaces that were not really planned at all. And they are, for the most part, a jumbled mess. One important point might be whether or not we are dealing with walkable spaces or driving spaces. I usually find public spaces where you can walk delightful, but the typical American strip mall and highway set-up is enervating.

    Liked by 1 person

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