Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] On how loving cities means you like city-dwellers

Just the other day, the blog Landscape + Urbanism linked to a May 2010 interview with Andrés Duany, an architect and urban planner of note, apparently one of the founders of the New Urbanism design movement. Jesus. he comes across as a crank.

Last week, Brookings Institution released a report on the state of metropolitan America. Have you had a chance to read it? Apparently more and more young people are fleeing suburbia these days.

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.

People who come from the suburbs, without the investment in the current configuration of the city--itself, as New Urbanists like Duany would acknowledge, highly contingent on any number of actions by people within the city--are loving cities to death?

It gets better.

What's it like to return to Havana--to an urban landscape untouched by the destructiveness of global capital?

I think it's more than just capital. There are two kinds of destruction: there's the loss of the city, the high rises, which is what happened in Mexico City and Buenos Aires and Bogota. But then there's the other destruction, which is the migration of the rural people to the city. And that was controlled in Cuba. They just said, "You don't have your card, you don't have your permit, you are not coming in."

Duany doesn't want a city. He wants gated neighbourhoods for people of his kind; he doesn't want anyone not of his particular background (we can infer fairly), anyone who might have different perspectives on cities or different patterns of use, to be present; he, irony of ironies, lacks faith in the ability of the city to be successful, dynamic.

The Landscape + Urbanism blogger makes his own commentary on Duany's statements, particularly to the first (the pro-pass law second doesn't deserve comment).

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.

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?

The thing is, isn't that process of reinvention something eternally recurring?
Tags: cities, migration, popular culture
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