Nothing like a rant against any effort to make cities better for people to give you a jolt in the day. Tom Slater, with more than one grudge in tow writes:
Amidst the bilious drivel (I think a ‘community cooking collective’ is best understood as a ‘Big Society’ dystopia), a few buzzwords stood out: “smart city app”, “old-quarter renovation”, “cycle paths”. The steer is towards a particular vision, that of the gentrifying city embraced by policy elites enamoured with pseudo-intellectuals like Richard Florida, Leo Hollis, Andres Duany and Ed Glaeser, but universally panned by any urbanist with a sense of social justice and an ounce of theoretical awareness.
lready more widely across the website, and propping up the gentrified quaintness being embraced, were uncritical nods towards the urbanism of Jane Jacobs, whose defeat of New York City’s master planners is these days romanticised as a humanising vision for cities without any acknowledgement of the disruptive and cookie-cutter gentrification that such a vision has unleashed all over the world.
Like its ideological twin of ‘sustainable urbanism’ before it, 'resilient cities’ is proving extraordinarily seductive. In the UK it is currently being embraced and pushed by deeply conservative ‘good-design-can-save-us’ organisations such as The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community and Create Streets. These are effectively large landowner lobbies that are pushing a profoundly conservative vision of cities. Staffed by bourgeois architects, planners and self-styled ‘urban gurus’, all of whom have started using appeals to environmental terms like ‘resilience’ to bolster their long-held fanatical devotion to the sinister American cult of ‘new urbanism’, they advance a darkly troubling vision of urban planning that purports to be about recreating ‘traditional’ streets and pedestrian-friendly ‘mixed-income’ communities. In reality, they advocate the creation of self-absorbed, clap-happy zones proudly celebrating how handpicked social housing tenants – a minority - are hidden behind a sterile vernacular of Quality Street, neo-Georgian facades.
It's quite an accomplishment to pillory Jane Jacobs, Andres Duany, Richard Florida, Ed Glaeser, the Prince's Foundation, the concepts of walkable cities, resilient cities, biking and pretty much everyone who's tried to improve urban life in the last 50 years in one short essay. And, to offer no constructive ideas yourself. I'd say "congrats," but I think some medication is in order instead.
If you got value from this post, please consider the following:
- Sign up for my email list
- Like The Messy City Facebook Page
- Follow me on Twitter
- Invite or refer me to come speak
- Check out my urban design services page
- Tell a friend or colleague about this site