The Metropolis and Mental Life / The New Urbanism and the Communitarian Trap Response

Harvey’s opinion that architecture cannot effect social change is one I find to be baseless given his refusal to address properly implemented urban constructs that have through history done good things.  He brings up several examples of bad planning –there is an innumerable amount through history from which to choose- but does little to give credit to good urban structures I believe exist.  I think first for architecture to create social change you need a population that is receptive to change but vacant of a place in which to implement it.  Places where racism is rampant wont dissolve the racism through placing groups in a mixing pot and hoping their spatial placements force people into cohabitation.  Rather architecture can serve as the stage for cooperation in this example, allowing other social groups the proper kinds of spaces in which to stage conversation.  I would also contend that Americans’ love of cars is based in the romanticized desires of manifest destiny in which every American has the right to take on the open road in an effort to seek the American dream.  I think the reason much of America is enthralled by their cars is because without them there isn’t proper infrastructure to obtain that freeing feeling of being in control of your ultimate destination.  Detroit is a prime example of a place where the public transportation is so poor that without a car it is near impossible to do something as simple as get groceries.  However in New York City the subway system is extensive enough that families living in DUMBO (an old factory district south of the Manhattan Bridge recently converted to multifamily residences) can access the entire region with ease.  The failure of New Urbanism, creating exclusive communities that do little to counteract urban sprawl and environmental destruction, is avoidable if planners understand the root cause of typical American decisions making and provide better alternatives in things like public transportation infrastructure.

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About mhgoblue

Architecture Undergrad University of Michigan

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