Thanks to Francis Morrone's high praise, I went out and bought Nairn's Guide to London.
Now I have to buy the airline ticket.
The architectural critics who hailed the November opening were right: Taniguchi crafted a deft collage of stone, metal and glass. He even managed to use a 110-foot-high central atrium as a subtle orientation device, linking the space to upper-floor galleries through irregular patterns of view shafts sliced through the atrium wall. Not only do they catch you by surprise, they allow visitors to maintain their bearings as they explore the past 125 years of art.
In fact MOMA's central atrium does no such thing. MOMA is confusingly layed out and the atrium doen't help orientation. I have a particularly good sense of spatial orientation. (That is not a boast, simply fact.) And I got very confused about where I was, how to exit etc etc while visiting MOMA.
Great publicity, too.
Read the article to which Tyler links and to which Terry responds.
What do you think?
I don't know Terry's track record but it strikes me as odd that Nicolai, of all people, would have the cheek to suggest that he might be second-rate. If that is indeed what he did mean.
The whole thing seems contrived. A glancing remark by a critic, the gloves wildly thrown down by the subject, a proposal for a public debate! What better way to create publicity.
UPDATE: I have re-read the texts and if there was ever a contrived dispute -- contrived to promote attention on two major institutions and their champions -- this must be it. Nicolai really said nothing particularly offensive (nor much truly incisive). Terry seems to take umbrage at nothing and simply want to keep the "debate" going. Fluff.
The Gates were not conceived to be seen from above nor through the glass windows (slightly dirty & reflective) of a hotel room. But I think that they still look pretty good and not even remotely infectious.
I was wrong, btw, to even hint in a previous post (several weeks ago) that keeping The Gates up beyond the scheduled sixteen days would be an idea worth considering. The Gates are an event and are so rich that to extend their stay would be like a dinner of only dessert -- too much. Whether the brief exhibit came out of the politics or was part of the artists' initial intention I have no idea; but it is the right decision.
UPDATE: I urge anyone who hasn't seen it -- hey! that means you, too, ACD! -- to take off snobbish blinders and to look before it comes down and...
Just because something is popular doesn't mean it isn't good.
UPDATE: Read a nice appreciation of The Gates at Ellen And Jim Have A Blog, Too.
It could be of course that those of us who made a deliberate trip to NYC to see The Gates are, having made that economic/psychological investment, more inclined to like it. Conversely, those who live in NYC may be disinclined to like them simply because so many provincials like me and Michele and Ellen and Jim and Laura Bush have come to visit and ooh and ah.
Meanwhile, as is predictable, the opinion of ARMAVIRUMQUE is comfortingly Predictable. It's reassuring (about the stability of the world) to be able ignore a blog for several months and then go back and read it and find that it's exactly as stuffy and pompous as one remembered.
Learning The Lessons of Nixon offers us 4 Minutes About Podcasting.
Tyler Green notes my comments (a few days ago) about MOMA and provides his readers a link, here, and says:
City Comforts is the latest critic to point out some MoMA flaws and proves that three months after the museum opened there are still original points to be made.
What is striking is that Tyler, who appears to me to be an extremely close observer of the art world, had not noticed anyone else making a comment on MOMA's street presentation. (I can't imagine that anything else I said could be even remotely original.) It's hard to understand how anyone could miss MOMA's street front because it is literally, unless one comes in by helicopter, the very first thing that a visitor must experience.
So maybe there is a clue here as to why the 54th Street facade is so poorly-done. (And btw, the 53rd is not much better at all; I would have shown/discussed it but I thought my points were so obvious, and probably repititious of others' comments, as to be hardly worth going into at any great length.)
The clue is that if my comment, which to me is so obvious -- my god the facade is right in front of you! -- is not actually obvious at all, and can still be characterized as an original point after three months of public review of the building, then perhaps the literal failure to see (how a building works in any sort of wholistic manner) is not purely in MOMA itself but in the whole art world! That world must be blissfully unaware of anything beyond its own self-defined sphere of "art," certainly something so mundane as a city sidewalk.
(Of course, as one wag pointed out, Tyler could simply have been referring to my off-hand praise of the MOMA cafeterial food!)
One benefit of the Supreme Court taking up a case is that the subject matter comes into focus for many people, including lawyers especially, who otherwise would never think about it. The eminent domain case now before SCOTUS is about when/how a government may compel sale of a property.
But that is just the easy part of a far more pertinent and far-reaching question -- when/how may a government regulate the use of private property, effectively taking some, all or a merely substantial part of it through zoning but without buying it. This is the famed "takings issue" which is the very heart and soul of land use law. And of urban planning.
Now I am a firm believer that zoning etc etc etc is one of those necessary evils of metropolitan culture. See for example Eminent domain was not handed down by God. But I am also a long-term observer that government -- in Seattle, anyway -- uses this tool in a way which exceeds what is practically required to create a fine city. See also "Client"? or "Supplicant"?
I'll suggest a solution, (sorry about the legal code words) which cuts through a lot of issues in eminent domain and zoning both. It is pretty simple. Extend to property rights the protections (to some degree) given to civil rights and liberties when faced with governmental intrusion -- i.e. some sort of "least intrusive means" test.
While government can interfere with your rights when it comes to limiting, say, free speech because of some conflict with, say, public safety in a theater. But govt. must tailor (and that is the word commonly used) the remedy to the "least intrusive means" of solving the specific problem while preserving as much of the underlying civil right/liberty as possible.
SCOTUS long ago moved away from such a limitation on government power and gave great deference to legislative authority when it comes to regulating property rights. "Public policy is what we say it is." This is an apt time to reconsider that balance and nudge things back in the other direction. The problems we face in land use these days do not stem from lack of governmental power but simply from
1. fundamental disagreements about how society should be formed and
2. insufficient human wisdom.
More regulatory power solves neither problem.
At any rate it is good to see that the blogosphere is paying
attention to the core of land use law: the "takings issue." See, for
example, Textualism and the Takings Clause:. and Takings Clause for starters.
Will Leviathan Prevail?
Property rights (updated)
Back to Property Fundamentals
What it all means
U.S. Supreme Court Hears Argument On Eminent Domain For Private Use
Will the Supreme Court Extend the Poletown Reversal?
Then Kip Esquire take the discussion into fantasy.
UPDATE: I ran into an interesting debate at Legal Affairs Debate Club titled Can Your Town Take Your Home? One of the debaters -- Professor Epstein -- makes a point which should trump the whole matter: eminent domain is simply superfluous as a tool of economic redevelopment. Epstein says:
First, on the practical level, giving cities blank checks over the property they condemn won't improve their decisions. Local governments can conduct all the hearings they want, but that doesn't prevent political intrigue from dominating their decisions. Peter, you speak about the need to assemble large contiguous plots of land. But this the City already has with over 90 acres in hand and it can't figure out what to do with them because the local economy doesn't support its grandiose ambitions. Yet when politics intervene, it will craft a convenient exception from the grim urban reaper. Hence the Italian Dramatic Club is spared from condemnation when the Brelesky house that abuts it is not. (italics added)
In any event, redevelopment for residential purposes takes place all the time without this heavy-handed intervention in towns that do every bit as well, or indeed better, than New London, which has only entered into this unfortunate caper because of the state funds that it has received and spent. There are all sorts of ways to spur development. The relaxation of zoning restrictions and misguided building codes, for example, don't require local governments to throw out long-term residents for a lark. (italics added)
Economic development is essentially a mystery. Why one society is rich and one is poor is one of the great, if not the greatest, of all mega-historical questions. It is not answered even to some small degree by eminent domain for the project du jour. Local government -- any government, even a truly wise one -- can/should do very little beyond providing honest courts and good schools. With those two elements you have the true basis for wealth formation. From my observation most of the rest of so-called "economic development (and btw I have worked in local government) is essentially redistributive from the poor to the rich. To aid it with the power of eminent domain is a huge mistake and one which will bring nothing except social dis-equilibrium.
Here is my lasting first impression of the new MOMA:
You are walking along the 54th Street facade. The wall separates the sidewalk from the "sculpture garden." After only a few minutes study (from inside the Museum) I could see obvious alternative designs which would have simultaneously
1. preserved the garden as a private space and
2. offered a bit more engaging street front.
But I guess this Museum, which prides itself on understanding that "architecture and design....are key elements of modern culture," could not even ask questions about how the building works with 54th Street. Oh well.
And the 53rd Street facade is not much better.
The whole museum is an oddly mundane place. (Oh of course I like the art but I wish they'd offer more seats so one could sit and enjoy the works in comfort -- oh yes there's my sensible-shoes bourgeois sensibility taking hold.) There is no street-presence to speak of. The interior is OK, if a bit difficult to image and navigate. The big white centerpiece atrium -- with Broken Obelisk at its center -- is indeed striking. But what interior space with a ceiling 65 feet (?) above is not striking? Even the most mundane elementary school gymnasium can be imposing; mere interior volume is imposing and architects have known that for millenia.
Is the building is a good one from the curator's perspective? I don't have the qualifications to suggest one way or another. But after all, what is a museum really about except providing a place to
1. preserve wall-hung art from the ravages of climate
2. display that art to those who desire to look
and that basically means a series of indoor spaces. MOMA appeared to have an adequate -- though confusingly arranged as I noted -- series of climate-controlled white-walled rooms with sufficient ceiling height. What more can there be/should there be than a series of rooms to permit paintings (and yes "the painting" is the default medium) to be shown to their best advantage? So it looks OK but MOMA certainly was not an inspiring/exciting/engaging place...more like a department store with no clerks and very little actually for sale.
One interesting thing my companion noticed was that many of the rooms were signed as the "Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Very Rich Donor." Rather than taking, say, all the works of one painter and grouping them together, collections are kept together...as if the collector's perhaps happenstance purchases had some significance to the larger world of "arts buffs",,,or as if these collectors were going to be hit up for more money and keeping their name in the public eye was a way of softening them up.
One of these days I will go read through the criticism of MOMA as a museum -- that Riley v. Ouroussoff teapot -- and see what they are talking about. But overall, I am glad we saw the new MOMA on our very brief trip to NYC. We had a very nice lunch in the cafeteria. Its seeing-ordering-delivering system was rather odd/awkward/unorthodox and I suspect they will modify it before long, the food was good. In particular the community tables should lead to some pleasant chance encounters as so many visitors are from out-of-town and therefore open to conversation.
But overall I can't figure where
the Museum spent $450 million. Certainly not on urban design.
Update: A comments from Steve Hodges suggests that the blank wall on 54th is a deliberate snub.
Do you really think it deliberate?
On the one hand, it doesn't take brilliance these days to be able to acknowldege the sidewalk as a design element in the politics, if nothing else, of a building's entitlements.
And on the other hand could the MOMA people truly be so coarse and ill-mannered as to voluntarily make a dead frontage?
Btw, do they have a building-by-building review in NYC? I would have concluded that there must an exemption from any review process for well-connected museums.
Another update: I comment on Tyler Green's comment.
And ignoring the telling question whether the Iraq War is a model to copy for future foreign policy initiatives. You can talk all you want about how much better off the Iraquis are now that Saddam Hussein is gone. And you'd be right.
But the question which puts the whole thing in perspective is "Would you use the Iraq War as an example of wisdom in the conduct foreign policy? Would you use it as a model for future conduct?"
And it is this question which my natural allies seem to ignore.
With regard to the current eminent domain issue, NathanNewman says:.
As to supply and demand, land is a weird commodity, which allows people to play strategic games of blocking that allow them to extract far more than the value of their land by completely blocking all development if they hold out.
I say "Huh?"
Newman's assertion seems a bit overbroad, at least. There is obviously lots of free-market (i.e. without use of condemnation) development all over the place. Developers work around sellers who refuse to sell. People can block development on their own property but how can their refusal to sell -- even a "key" parcel -- stymie development on neighboring properties? (There is usually no such thing as a "key parcel.") How can Newman justify such a seemingly outrageous statement? I don't get it. Just remember, the issue is not eminent domain for public facilities nor forcing a sale of an easement to give access to a land-locked property but eminent domain to foster economic development, which could be anything a particular group of people who constitute a City Council decide it is at any given time -- unless you restrict the meaning of "public use."
Part of the overall issue is the great deference which so many liberals give to "the government." Let's just remember that "the government" is just a group of individuals with no greater wisdom than you or I. There is no magic in a decision just because it is from "the government."
Of course part of the problem is that sometimes it truly is difficult to delineate public versus private. For instance, is a freeway spur to a proposed Boeing plant really a purely "public" road? But handing over property from one private party to another certainly to me seems like it is well over the edge and should not be facilitated with condemnation.
I have learned through my own hard & harsh life experience that whenever I encounter a conflict the first thing I should do is to "monetize the issue." Figure out what is at stake; often the dollar amount is surprisingly low; monetizing the conflict puts it in perspective.
Here via Alex Tabarrok is a striking example based on the Civil War, which makes an interesting point though whther it is in fact based on plausible number I don't of course know.
...that ACD had (wisely, prudently, shrewdly, sagely) given up blogging on buildings, architecture, cities, etc etc. I see that he is at it again. Oh my.
And what's unfortunate is that he seconds a most unfortunate post on the new urbanism by Nancy Levinson in which she offers this money quote:
But New Urbanism hasn't become a phenomenal success because it promotes mixed-use zoning and multi-family housing and metropolitan light rail; it's become a phenomenal success because it is closely linked with a comfortably quaint aesthetic...
There are several things which ought be noted.
1. While New Urbanism has been successful, the vast majority of new American housing is not now built according to new urbanist principles so maybe the term "phenomenal" is be a bit overboard;
2. New Urbanism is only peripherally about "mixed-use zoning and multi-family housing and metropolitan light rail." It is primarily about creating walkable neighborhoods (and it was in fact Levinson's conflation of metropolitan light rail with walkable neighborhoods which got me to link to her first post to begin with);
3. Consumers have in fact responded in the marketplace to mixed-use zoning but that is not because of New Urbanism but because of even larger dynamics in the American landscape; new urbanism and mixed-use are separate though mutually-reinforcing movements;
4. The comfortably quaint aesthetic of new urbanism --- which Levinson scorns while living at its epicenter, Cambridge, Massachusetts, which place can only be exceeded in being comfortably quaint by a Ralph Lauren advertisement -- indeed includes provision for such quaint behavior as walking and is not, assertions to the contrary, successful because of its visual appearance.
Or let me put the whole thing another way, if Ms. Levinson can attack new urbanism for not doing what it does not aim to do, then I can chide Ms. Levinson for not writing more in her blog about skiing and horses.
Anthony Williams, who is president of the National League of Cities, says the power of eminent domain is one of the most important tools city officials have to rejuvenate their neighborhoods.
"Where would Baltimore be without the Inner Harbor, Kansas City without the Kansas Speedway, Canton, Miss., without its new Nissan plant?" Williams said.
Indeed. Where? Government would simply have to take part in a capitalist society and bargain, negotiate etc etc. There is no excuse -- except national security, which in some circumstances is exempt from the takings clause anyway -- to use condemnation of one person's property in order to favor another private owner's plans.
I hope that the blogosphere pays attention to this case; Crooked Timber is doing so but Crescat Sententia deals with it as a horse race. I hope other blogs chime in as I would like to see more people considering the mechanics of urban development at the local level.
The key thing to remember is that eminent domain, as used by the New London, CT government, is irrelevant...i.e. it is not needed. If I were arguing this case before SCOTUS I would present a "Brandeis brief" which makes the point that -- all legal issues aside -- eminent domain as used is simply not an essential tool. The empirical evidence is there. Sure. there may be a few instances here and there where eminent domain actually did result in a good project.
But you have to consider two other facts:
1. the thousands and tens of thousands of situations where healthy development happens with out it and
2. the many cases where eminent domain is simply a give-away (the Poletown case itself) in which the government bet -- as with many government "incentives" to entice industry to locate here or there -- turns out to be a loser.
Of course those facts don't go to the legal issues -- which I think are clearly on the side of the homeowners -- but it does undercut the sense of urgency -- "This is our only tool!" -- with which eminent domain enthusiasts present their case.
Laurence Aurbach writes:
A little hard to keep track at this point, but here it is: Town and O'Toole wrote an article about new urbanism and crime in Reason magazine, I rebutted the article, and O'Toole wrote a letter in response. O'Toole's letter was posted in its entirety in a previous post. I won't reproduce the whole thing, just reply to several of the statements.
O'TOOLE (quoting Oscar Newman): I am not very impressed with the work of the New Urbanists. It is nostalgia--a throwback to the past, with little thought about what made those environments work then (long term occupancy by an identical economic class and ethnic group), and unworkable today (occupancy by itinerants, mixed incomes, and ethnic groups).
REPLY: I am not very impressed with Newman's knowledge of new urbanism or its excellent record in reducing crime and creating new, safe neighborhoods.
O'TOOLE (Quoting Newman): Assign that same area to specific families and they will guard it as their own and control the activity within it.
REPLY: That technique is part of the new urbanist toolkit. And, as my quotes demonstrate, Newman was fully in favor of public space provided it was designed correctly.
O'TOOLE (Quoting Newman): [Jacobs'] theory was disproven when we had a major incident in New York--the Kitty Genovese murder--in which over a hundred people witnessed the beating to death of a woman in the street by a stranger and not only did not intervene, they didn't even call the police. The reason: they did not identify the street as theirs.
REPLY: First, the circumstances of one murder does not prove or disprove any theory. Second, there were only a handful of eye witnesses at 3:20 in the morning, and the police were called. (Thanks to Will Cox for the source.)
O'TOOLE: In short, the key is "territorial definition of environments," not eyes on the street.
REPLY: Wrong. The key is both. Newman is clear about this in his books, as my quotes demonstrate. O'Toole's implication that natural surveillance is not important is extremely irresponsible.
O'TOOLE (quoting Newman): the residential environments they (the New Urbanists) are creating are very vulnerable to criminal behavior, unless, of course, these environments are exclusively occupied by high income groups--which, by their own definition, they are not.
REPLY: That is pure speculation, not supported by the evidence.
O'TOOLE: For some reason, Aurbach diverges from the main point of the article -- crime -- to address some other issues.
REPLY: I address the issues that O'Toole raised in his article. "For some reason"? That's the only reason.
O'TOOLE: This was on a page called "New Urban basics." While CNU may have deleted it from its web site, it is on several other sites with attribution to CNU, including http://www.ub.es/escult/docus2/NEW_URBANISM_%20BASICS.doc
REPLY: It's called verifying your sources, and it's an important part of journalism. By the way, that document doesn't attribute CNU, it only lists CNU as a source of additional information.
O'TOOLE: Aurbach makes the conventional New Urban argument that New Urbanism reduces congestion. He confuses reducing per capita driving with congestion, which is not the same thing.
REPLY: No. I address them separately.
O'TOOLE: the increases in density needed to reduce per capita driving are huge -- 10 times the average density of most U.S. urban areas.
REPLY: Wrong. An increasing in population density will decrease per capita driving, and the data approximately fits a smooth curve. Every doubling of density decreases vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 25 to 30 percent. Higher density areas with 40% less VMT than low density suburbs are common in the U.S. See for instance http://www.smartgrowth.org/library/cheers.html
O'TOOLE: I have read all the [health] research that claims to find this result and it is anything but credible.
REPLY: The research was peer reviewed and published in mainstream journals. It was credible enough to satisfy the scientists who were in a position to make that judgement.
O'TOOLE: In short, Aurbach fails to contradict the key points of our article: Research by police in England has shown that New Urban design significantly increases crime.
REPLY: I have cited numerous sources that contradict that point. Examples of research and case studies. Check 'em out.
O'TOOLE: While there is no equivalent study of New Urbanism in the U.S., research by Newman and other criminologists on specific aspects of New Urbanism, such as mixed uses and alleys, shows that they make residences more vulnerable to crime.
REPLY: New urbanism is a complete design approach, and its "specific aspects" are implemented in concert with a full range of design elements. Mixed use and alleys must be designed correctly, as part of a larger neighborhood design, to be safe, functional, attractive and highly valued. New urbanists have in fact achieved this in hundreds of developments.
Isolating one element of new urban design, and correlating it with poor examples of that one element elsewhere, has little or no relevance. What's relevant is the empirical record of existing new urban communities. We'll all be better off to stick with actual evidence from true new urban communities.
Laurence Aurbach writes:
Tomorrow, February 22, 2005, the Supreme Court will hear the property rights case Kelo vs. New London. The Court will review a Connecticut state court ruling that allows the city of New London to eliminate 15 homes and businesses for a Pfizer Corporation expansion. In my opinion, justice demands the "public use" provision of eminent domain be clarified to exclude purely private gain.
Planners, developers, public officials, property rights activists and many others will be watching with keen interest. The case has the potential to redefine the practice of eminent domain in the U.S., and in particular an increasingly common practice used by municipalities: confiscate a group of private properties, consolidate them, and sell/give the resulting parcel to another private owner. Often the new owner is a multinational corporation.
As best I can determine from the docket, forty amicus briefs have been filed for this case, twenty-five in favor of the property owners. Many of these discuss property rights and constitutional issues. However, this amicus brief by John Norquist focuses on economic development -- and economic development is the city’s reason for taking property, after all. His main points:
But, taxpayers are now being asked to underwrite the risks of real estate-related economic development ... for speculative acquisition of real estate. This has resulted from the recently acquired taste for expediency among certain members of the private development community who hunger for government to speed up the development process and/or cut existing landowners off from the economic potential of their land ... Lured by proffered visions of tax base enhancement and upscale amenities, some local officials are supporting this sort of "corporate welfare," and it not only raises serious Fifth Amendment questions, but skews the evaluation of projects and their long range community impacts.
Jane Jacobs, urban sociologist and author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, also filed an amicus brief. If anything, it’s better than Norquist's: Comprehensive, experienced, and well-structured. Jacobs argues from the perspective of an expert in the harms of urban renewal. In one interesting section (I.C.3), Jacobs addresses the problem of "holdout" owners. Holdouts are usually cited as a justification for eminent domain, and Jacobs describes two ways that developers deal with holdouts without any government intervention. Her strategies are 1) secret negotiations, and 2) "most-favored nation" contracts (same price must be paid to all).
I am delighted to offer this emailed response from Randal O'Toole. I disagree heartily with his conclusions and methodology, and I frankly don't think much of its intellectual rigor -- the more I reflect the more I think articles like O'Toole's makes Reason look bad, but I think that it is important to engage people -- especially people who are so very, very wrong -- directly and cordially. I've put my own words in a different color so that the reader can more easily follow who is speaking. So welcome to Mr. O'Toole, who writes:
Lawrence Aurbach takes a long time to say a few things, most of which are wrong. I don't have time to respond to all if his post, but I can respond to a couple of statements.
Modern Art Notes observes that
[t]he alleged art magazine of record still hasn't mentioned The Gates.
That may not be so surprising if, as I believe, The Gates are (ultimately to be) seen as socio-political event as much as art performance. So it makes sense for serious art critics to wait until the event/performance is complete before offering judgment. No?
What's predictable is that "serious intellectuals" often cannot stomach the possibility that something appreciated by the teeming masses might simultaneously be brilliant. Here for example is the WaPo:
They're way, way better than the pandas, pigs, cows and other fiberglass tchotchkes that have "decorated" our cities over the past decade.
But it's only a difference of quality, not kind.
A "difference of quality, not kind."
What exactly does that mean? Does it mean anything? It seems to me that when you have a difference in quality -- say Peet's coffee versus Folgers which would only be understandable to blue-state American coffee drinkers but for some reason it's the example which pops to mind -- the difference in quality really does create a difference in kind.
The experience of drinking Peet's is very different than drinking Folger's. (If it is not, then all those buyers of expensive coffee are just fools.)
So could the WaPo be saying that every play about, say, a man who loves a woman but is rebuffed is essentially the same?...that the skill of the author (quality of writing) makes no difference because the subject (kind of story) is the same?...that "decorating" a city (the bile is palpable) is trivial no matter the skill brought to it by the actor? Odd; I thought that eseence of being human was to discriminate.
As an author/publisher, and much to my chagrin as an enthusiast for eBooks, this news from the King County Libraries makes me hesitate to start porting City Comforts to eBook format:
I am waiting to see if this lasts. And what if anything it means for author/publisher compensation.
King County Library System is proud to announce the full integration of hundreds of downloadable digital audio books to this collection for your enjoyment. Browse or search for your favorite titles in OverDrive Audio Book format as you browse the already established Adobe and Mobipocket eBooks catalog. Choose, checkout, and download audio books to your computer, burn to a CD, or transfer to your portable device. The future is here today! (italics added - DS)
Alas, it's not available for Macintosh so I really can't judge how well it works.
For the serious policy wonks out there:
Btw, and if someone knows these folks, I'd appreciate it if you'd pass on the invitation -- I'd be delighted to hear responses --- I'll give them a a guest post slot, in fact -- from Town and O'Toole.
I imagine, however, that they have too much sense to open up a direct conversation with people like Aurbach, Steuteville and Filmanowicz who actually know something about new urbanism.
Anyone interested in the claims of Town and O'Toole -- and I am still sad to see them in a magazine like Reason which otherwise has an awful lot of insightful & inciteful articles, even when you ultimately disagree with their conclusions -- should be paying careful attention to the writings of both Steuteville and Aurbach (previous post.)
UPDATE: I stand corrected and I apologize. Laurence Aurbach informs me:
"The critique on the CNU website was written by Steve Filmanowicz, the CNU
communications director. Your can read Rob Steuteville's complete letter to
the editor of Reason on John Massengale's blog, at Reason [sic] magazine.
Btw, I am back home in Seattle from a brief trip to New York and will be posting in the next few days on The Gates (marvelous!) and the new MOMA (underwhelming, at best) and JetBlue (refreshing.)
Laurence Aurbach writes:
What follows is a rebuttal to the article "Crime-Friendly Neighborhoods" by Stephen Town and Randal O'Toole, in the Feb. 2005 issue of Reason magazine. For those who prefer an executive summary, I begin with a letter to the editors of Reason. After that, I go through a point-by-point rebuttal complete with sources and citations.
To the Editor, Reason Magazine:
Town and O'Toole's article contains many distortions and misinformation; so much so that it is an embarrassment to the authors and to Reason magazine.
PIXEL POINTS mentions what the NYT suggests is the latest fad in domestic architecture -- neoclassicism. She makes what I believe is the fatal flaw of some new urbanists: somehow assuming that some sort of rail is a necessary adjunct to urban civilization. It's a myth with which I too was raised. Oh maybe group travel would be nice; I like trains and buses and they are important at so many levels from energy conservation to social equity.
But I think that to link the two -- urbanism and group transport -- will get us neither one and I think both are important, though I'd suggest that the taste for urban living comes first. Urbanism, if is to ever happen in the USA, must be based on the personal vehicle. To hold out -- and this is probably taking Nancy Levinson's remarks well-beyond her intention but I will make the point because others believe it-- social transit as pre-condition to pedestrian-oriented cities will lead to nought.
Btw, I say this having seen absolutely packed urban rail cars -- people standing up hanging on straps -- this past weekend in, all of places, Salt Lake City. People will use rail. And it's worth the social investment. But let's not suggest that such investment leads to walkable cities. Just take a look at the suburban stations of The DC and Bay Area rail systems: many are huge parking lots surrounding staions and have been for decades.
If you or your mate love treehouses, have a very large tree
in your backyard, and don't mind a construction and film crew
milling about your yard for a few weeks--this may be for you!
The History Channel is launching a, well, historical makeover series,
and our professional builder will build, in your back yard, an
authentically detailed treehouse modeled on the 17th century
Pitchford House in England.
THE KICKER-- IT MUST BE A COMPLETE SURPRISE TO THE
RECIPIENT (HUSBAND, WIFE, RELATIVE, BEST FRIEND)! And you or
the recipient must own the property where we construct this for. A vacation property, or land the lucky recipient is away from for long periods
of time, is what we need.
All phases of the building will be filmed, so plan on a film crew
and busy builders swarming the property for several weeks. The
presentation to the stunned recipient will also be captured by the
video crew. This is for outgoing people with a sense of
adventure and fun.
Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I don't think it's being ungrateful to take a closer look at this $20 million figure...I believe the Christos' consider the budget to be an important aspect of their work. The artists themselves make a big deal about how much their projects cost, how they don't accept government financing, donations or sponsorships, and how they pay for everything themselves by selling related drawings, models and ephemera.
They also consider the sometimes decades-long process--materials testing and procurement, engineering studies, bureaucratic navigation and and political negotiations--as intrinsic to their work. Their website is full of factoids on fabric, hardware, topographic studies, and the corporate machinery and machinations that underpin their projects.
And that's not to say that I vouch for every line-item in Greg's analysis but simply that I admire this refreshing approach to the creation of "art." And I suspect that C & J-C (Christo and Jeanne-Claude) would appreciate it as well as such down-to-earth analysis mirrors the work itself and furthers the penetration of art into the social conversation.
Modern Art Notes links to various blog posts on The Gates.
I will offer my opinion, if I have one, on The Gates only after I have seen them, which will be tomorrow.
But meanwhile I am curious if that sixteen day run is negotiable. (The Gates are fleeting and are supposed to be removed on February 27.) Since, as I have pointed out before, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have as much to do with real estate devlopment as with art, and Mayor Bloomberg is also a negotiator of some ability, I wonder if The Gates time frame may involve a few curtain calls...say a year's worth.
Norm Geras is still at it -- trying to defend the Iraq War. I don't blame him; if I had been an advocate I'd be pretty defensive now, too. And it may well be that something good (i.e. a stable, democratic Iraq) will come out of it. I certainly hope so and we should set aside our distaste for George W. Bush and thank god that the man has good luck, for his bad luck is/will be our bad luck.
But the big question which defenders of the Iraq War (and this question is not directed at only Norm but all the others such as Harry's Place etc etc -- and I only link to Norm because I just happened to read his apropos post) never seem to get around to (and no surprise, really) is whether the Iraq War is a good model for future American foreign policy? Should we do it over again? And if so, where next?
We may yet get out of Iraq by the skin of out teeth and leave the place permanently better off. Let us pray.
But the key question is should we do it again? Someplace else? Is the Iraq War a good model for future action?
The silence on this issue from defenders of the Iraq War strikes me as deafening. And convincing. While war supporters all suggest (at least that's my observation) that not only was this war a good idea they don't go further and suggest that we should embark on other wars of national liberation. The issue is not the "moral question" -- i.e. do we have "the right" to go into someone else's country and topple a vicious dictator. My quick answer is "Sure. In extremis. Absolutely so. And in fact maybe we should."
The larger question is prudential: can we really pull it off? Do we have the ability -- militarily and technically -- to transform other nations via war. By their silence, even the war hawks don't seem to think that the Iraq War offers a model for future action.
Laurence Aurbach points out that in this current issue of Reason,
Charles Paul Freund has the last word, which I think is correct. He quotes Moynihan: "ours must be openness and fearlessness in the face of those who hide in the darkness. A precaution, yes, sequester, no."
Feb 14, 2005 | Permalink
More on Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Gates.
More misrepresentation and disinformation: Crime-Friendly Neighborhoods: How “New Urbanist” planners sacrifice safety in the name of “openness” and “accessibility” .
Watch for further (and probably scathing) comments on this blog. The article does not enhance the reputation of a magazine with which I have only just become acquainted: Reason. It is curious is that in the very same issue with the above poorly-done hit-piece is a very thoughtful & impressive editorial from Nick Gillespie titled Live Free and Die of Boredom: Is “economic freedom” just another word for nothing left to do? Here's a taste of it.
The simple fact is that many people—arguably most people, if population patterns are any indication—are ready, willing, and able to pay a steep premium to live in more densely populated places where things inevitably cost more money and take more time, where there are more regulations, higher taxes, bigger annoyances, you name it.
Obviously from a man with an urbane, sophisticated and practical sensibility. Oh well, I guess every magazine is a collective effort, and therefore a compromise, but it was surprising to find two articles of such disparate quality and attitude in the same issue Read the whole editorial, at least. The other one...ech.
While captivating and far superior to anything I have yet seen, it is also clearly still in beta, as this very incomplete map of wifi in my own neighborhood shows:
(And after considering the crisp speed and utility of this new Google service, I wouldn't be so sure that Google shares are overpriced.)
New Scientist says Gay men read maps like women.
Marginal Revolution asks Do gay men read maps like women?
And I can't remember how I read maps at all. But one thing I have noticed is that so many people in Seattle don't use street addresses. I am learning to curb my exasperation when someone starts to explain how to get to a place on a main drag -- say 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle -- an address in a city built on a grid, even if a grid interrupted by lakes and hills etc -- by starting from what seems like a county away.
Me: "Great! I can be there at 2PM. What is your address?"
Host: "Well you'll be coming down I-5 and keep going past the Freeway Bridge and then...I'd get off at the first exit right before the King Dome...oh let's see, that's James...and then take your quick first right.."
Me: "And the address is...?"
Host: "Then you'll go down the hill, what is it?... two blocks...and then..."
Me: "Well yeah, great! So the address is...?"
Host: "Then turn right and drive a bit until you see a sculpture...it's kinda weird looking...Modern."
Me: "Oh you mean the Henry Moore in front of the Old SeaFirst Building, which was for maybe 25 years the biggest building north of San Francisco? You are in that building?"
Host: "Yes! You know it? Fabulous! I hope you can find it. Then when you get in the lobby..."
That's what I hear a lot. I even hear it from people who are in the real estate business and who one would think would have an acute spatial sense. Why can't they just start with the address, ask if if one needs directions and take it from there. Go figure.