Attaboy.ca

Over There (in the UK)

March 6, 2006 at 5 PM

The New City

I enjoy reading James Kunstler. Kunstler is an author, critic and crank who writes about urban planning in American cities. His favourite target is the American suburb, and he has written extensively about the unfortunate reality of places like Atlanta and Las Vegas, cities defined by sprawl and emptiness. The American Beauty model — that suburbs are oppressive, soul-draining pits of conformity — isn’t Kunstler’s main line of reasoning, though. Recently, his main target is the costly and unrealistic dependence on oil that is bred by traditional suburban development patterns. Global oil production is slowing, and when it finally reaches terminal decline, Kunstler argues, it will mean a disastrous bust in the American economy, which is reliant on cheap loans and constant construction to keep the money flowing.

Kunstler’s tone is rarely anything less than caustic, and reading too much of him at once is likely to darken your mood and your day. That said, I can’t get enough of his Eyesore of the Month, in which he takes monthly aim at the worst examples of post-modern architecture. Criticizing urban planning and criticizing architecture aren’t the same thing, but they are inextricably linked. Too often architecture mirrors the troubling trends of development: all the emphasis is on the here in the present, and there is little thought for there — your neighbours and descendants who will live in the future with what is built.

I was intrigued to see March’s eyesore: the proposed Museum Plaza in Louisville, Kentucky. At first glance, it reminds me of nothing more than an offshore oil rig. Is the architect trying to express his pride on American dependence on the slick, black stuff?

Regardless of whether the connotation is intentional, a building of this size and shape would be like a giant middle finger extended to the city and its citizens. Imagine walking under this thing and the impending feeling of doom you would have that the colossal platform might fall on you at any time. Imagine how over-shadowed (both literally and figuratively) other buildings in the area would seem, and how little this building would contribute to the neighbourhood.

The building also features the same spindly spider leg look that makes the Ontario College of Art and Design such a disaster in my opinion. Architecture should take heart of the notion that a building may stand for hundreds or thousands of years.

There is always a place for uniqueness, flare and creativity in architecture. That doesn’t mean you have to ignore the surroundings and demonstrate technological prowess by designing something that looks like it could be knocked over by the first person that leans too hard on the walls.

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Previously: Two Minute Fowl

Subsequently: A Bit of Folded Paper

March 2006
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I only really read it for Canucks coverage, but even still it’s nice that The Vancouver Sun finally redesigned its hideously awful website to look like it was designed this century.


On pizza box art


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Welcome to Obama, Japan


The Toronto Star shows where and how the seats changed in the 2008 election

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