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Welcome - my name is Kevin Klinkenberg, and this site "The Messy City" is my blog and company website. I started blogging on urban planning and design issues in 2007, and began working in the field in 1993. Please feel free to connect with me on any of the social media sites listed here. Thanks for reading.

Casualties of the car culture

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Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on Gizmodo share "9 of the most beautiful buildings we ever tore down." One item from the piece:

"After World War II," NPR once put it, "such buildings fell like leaves in autumn to make space for a new way of life." These buildings—many of which represented first-of-their-kind technical achievements just years before—were woefully outdated for the post-War city, where telephones and open plan offices reigned. They had to go—and in an era before historic preservation even had a proper name, there were very few people fighting for them.

But the post then goes on to describe several buildings that did in fact have people fighting for them, and were not at all victims of some kind of inevitable progress. In fact, if you scan this piece and the thousands of other examples from around the country, what you'd most commonly find is that these were casualties of the car culture. We demolished train stations, office buildings, residences and entire neighborhoods in order to make way for cars, big roads and parking. Very little of this had to do with "telephones and open plan offices." The only evidence one needs is to see how buildings that were not demolished have been fully adapted to modern uses.

The language here is emblematic of the idea of the inevitable arc of progress. That is, things change, and generally change for the better because society progresses. And yet, I look at these changes and wonder, "was it really good for the humans?" Did the price we pay to "modernize" really make our cities and our lives better?

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