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August 20, 2003

James Howard Kunstler

Friedrich --

Mark Hurst does a short, helpful q&a with urban critic, New Urbanism advocate, and all-around firebrand James Howard Kunstler here. Sample passage:

Kunstler: One of the other strange unforeseen consequences of the modernist movement was that it gave corporate America an excuse to build cheap and ugly buildings. When ornament has been outlawed and is deemed incorrect, you can just put up boxes. The more utilitarian the box, the less money you'll put into it. If you go back to a differentculture, the Beaux Arts period in America a hundred years ago, even a businessman would be persecuted for putting up a building that wasn't attractive. Look at any business building put up in 1905: a beautiful building, beautifully decorated and proportioned. Even the fire houses. But it was all thrown in the garbage in the post-war years.

Michael Totten comments enthusiastically here. David Sucher, via whose blog I found this q&a, comments less favorably here.



posted by Michael at August 20, 2003


quoting Kunstler:

"If you go back to a different culture, the Beaux Arts period in America a hundred years ago, even a businessman would be persecuted for putting up a building that wasn't attractive."

It's possible that anyone who put up an ugly building (or at least a building as drastically ugly as a lot of modern buildings) a century ago would have been persecuted, but I bet that's not
the major reason people made attractive buildings. I suspect that it was partly that doing ornamented, at least vaguely pleasant buildings was partly How Things Were done, partly a way of showing off, and partly a way of pleasing whoever had commissioned the building--who would have been someone who'd spent their life with attractive buildings and had never been told that there was something low about having buildings that one could like.

Posted by: Nancy Lebovitz on August 21, 2003 8:37 AM

I suspect you're absolutely right. Which leads me to wonder: why don't avant-gardists ever seem to realize that every time they question something, clear the decks, or open something new up, business and efficiency types roar in right after them? I've got nothing against biz and efficiency types, but avant-gardists usually do. So why are they forever doing unpaid r&d for business? And a disservice to many of the rest of us, who'd probably prefer to keep biz values out of certain domains of life...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 21, 2003 11:01 AM

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sonnerie digital

Posted by: ali on November 14, 2003 5:45 AM

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