16 March 2011

Do As Igoe, Not As I Say.

Richard Fernandez looks at my profession and concludes, if you want to know about the future don't ask an architect. As an architect, on the whole I couldn't agree more.

The starry-eyed Corbusian impulse to "remake" man by remaking cities, a movement that was driven far more by ideology, romance, and elitist guilt than by necessity or demand, failed utterly. It crashed under the weight of it's own totalitarian arrogance and lack of real understanding of the problem, since most of the people creating solutions for the working poor were, well, members of the ruling classes and had never been poor themselves. It especially failed here America for three reasons, I think. First, Americans, unlike Europeans, tend to value individual freedom more than we value collective security. When we look in the mirror we see "me", not "we". Or, at least, we used to, anyway. Second, we didn't have an entrenched aristocracy per se, especially one whose opinion the masses were conditioned over centuries to follow. We like the fact we have don't have a paternalistic ruling class determining our outcome. Or, at least, we used to, anyway. And third, unlike Europe we have the space to escape urban decay and start over, and have traditionally valued the freedom to make that choice when we had the means. Or, at least, we used to, anyway. Hence, the rise of American suburbia and exurbia - Wright's 'Broadacre City' became our solution instead of Corbu's 'Radiant City'. We started 'Learning from Las Vegas', and we liked what we saw. Or, at least, we used to, anyway.

I think the "green" movement, which is all the rage in architectural circles these days, will go the same way as the Corbusian movement of the last century, and for much the same reasons. It is ideologically driven with an apocalyptic, totalitarian bent, it is elitist in the extreme, and those wanting to impose it have little understanding of, or experience with, how they want others to live. Without restrictive laws and government regulations imposing this or banning that, or handing out tax-payer funded grants and subsidies to favored groups and solutions, the "green" economy we hear so much about would, if people were given a choice, never come to pass. That is why those who advocate "going green" want to limit personal choice as much as possible (buy only this kind of light bulb, or that type of toilet, or use this kind of window) and why, like those before them who advocated Corbu's outlook, they mostly ignore the wants, needs and values of those they claim to be helping.

1 comment:

BillB said...

Redstick, you have hit it square in the bullseye (Can I say that here?). The elitist, psuedo-aristocrats would love to roll back the clock of politics and society about a 1000 years as far as actual outcome goes. They would like to keep the trappings of a democratic republic meanwhile fully eviscerating it to suit their whims.