Sunday, November 14, 2010

Second-Rate Urbanism

Reading through some old articles, I just had to post this quote from Duany - published in the Atlantic - you know the one with the great title 'The Man Who Reinvented the City'... :)  Asked about a May report from the Brookings Institution on The State of Metropolitan America (also check out the interactive map here), the response definitely piqued the interest of many - which I imagine may make recruiting for the CNU a bit more difficult in years to come... (underlined passages by me)

"There's this generation who grew up in the suburbs, for whom the suburbs have no magic. The mall has no magic. They're the ones that have discovered the city. Problem is, they're also destroying the city. The teenagers and young people in Miami come in from the suburbs to the few town centers we have, and they come in like locusts. They make traffic congestion all night; they come in and take up the parking. They ruin the retail and they ruin the restaurants, because they have different habits then older folks. I have seen it. They're basically eating up the first-rate urbanism. They have this techno music, and the food cheapens, and they run in packs, great social packs, and they take over a place and ruin it and go somewhere else.
I've known for 10 years about this destructive monoculture that's condensed in the suburbs. These people would normally be buying real estate by now. And we designed for them. We kept saying, "Aha, these kids, between 24 and 35, will be buying real estate." Guess what? They aren't. Because they can't afford it. But they're still using the cities--they're renting and so forth. The Gen-Xers also discovered the cities; they're buying in a proper way. The Millennials are the ones we're talking about. And they love cities desperately. And they're loving them to death."
Rather than sounding like a cranky senior (you kids today with your loud techno-music?) it's interesting to criticize an entire generation, especially one that, unlike their parents generation who hollowed out many of the US cities, seems to have rediscovered the City for it's life and culture, even after being battered by childhoods in the suburbs.  Hampered by an economic situation that was none of their making, they see opportunity in cities, but have little of the money (or perhaps desire) to make things happen in a traditional sense.  That's why they are the cutting edge in art (although rarely selling), the guerrilla gardeners, the urbane musicians (often playing in the streets or in a club for free), the community designers (doing more with labor in lieu of money) and the remainder of a rag-tag, creative class (not Richard Florida's version, but the real creative class) that makes cities vibrant and interesting.

:: Burnside Skatepark

Simply, they represent the undercurrent of urban life that gives cities a flavor unlike a homogeneous and expensive quasi-suburb - which they have perhaps grown up in but fled, never to return.  Perhaps they will evolve a differing urbanism that is more youth-oriented and affordable, allowing this 'lower-class' to have some space without ruining the 'first-rate' urbanism due to their differing habits and economic strata?.

We may enjoy this Second-rate Urbanism?


  1. Oh this is exactly why Duany and the CNUer's have lost the debate! As a perfect representative of the generation he refers to ( grew up in the suburbs, graduated high school in 2000, and have forever lived as close to the center of cities as possible) his neo-liberal, conservative stance is so infuriating. Furthermore it betrays the complete lack of understanding and faith in actually democratic, heterogeneous, urbanism that is the foundation of healthy cities. Whether it's true or not, this kind of sentiment leaves CNU with the impression of simply being nice, quaint, quite place for middle and upper class whites. For us that is the suburbs.

  2. it needs to be said once and for all: that Andres Duany is devastatingly handsome in that metropolis photo. Waldheim/Corner/et al do not stand a chance against those rugged features.

  3. I think you may have just unlocked all of the mysteries...

  4. ;)
    looking forward to your insights on the seattle conference.


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