Blueprints for a Better ‘Burb

The collaborative entry between the Network Architecture Lab and Park for the Build a Better Burb competition is featured in the New York Times today in an article by Alison Arieff titled "Blueprints for a Better ‘Burb."

During the first four (!) years of work at the Netlab, I wanted to focus on analysis. This summer, I felt that we were finally ready to undertake design work.

We have the best team yet at the Netlab—Leigha Dennis, Kyle Hovenkotter, Momo Araki, and Alexis Burson were the members who worked on this—and Will Prince, principal of Park, was a great partner. 

Get ready for more. Soon. In the meantime, take a look at revised version of our proposal, either in PDF form here or in the video below. And please vote for us on the site (here).

 

  


 

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On Fetishism and the City

After years of hearing that Marxism has nothing to say about the economy,  even that bastion of new economy neoliberalism, Fast Company, is turning to Marxism to make some sense of the mess. In "David Harvey’s Urban Manifesto: Down With Suburbia; Down With Bloomberg’s New York," Fast Company’s Greg Lindsay recounts some of Harvey’s recent thinking on the economy and the suburbanization of the city.

My only quibble is that Harvey doesn’t give us enough credit when he says (in the admittedly out-of-context quote): "We’re all suburbanites now, without knowing it," he said. "We’re all neoliberals now, without knowing it."*

I think we know full well. As Octave Mannoni, French Lacanian psychoanalyst, said of fetishism, "I know very well but nevertheless…" And what else is the urban hipster, that contemporary flâneur, but a fetishist? 

*One more quibble: once again, the term suburbanite is not really serving us well anymore. But I’ll admit that it is a convenient shorthand. 

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The Dangers of Diffusion

 

I’ve previously written about the dangers facing cities in the upcoming economic collapse. Even as some "urbanists" are naïvely predicting that city cores will only strengthen during the coming decade as suburbs decline, cities face many hurdles. One is that second cities, both in the US and abroad are subject to a network effect, being left behind by a few more powerful brethren that get all the press. Been to Buffalo, Detroit, Utica, Syracuse, Albany, Newark or Paterson lately? Cities are a basket case.

But let’s give equal opportunity to suburbs. Poverty has been dramatically increasing in suburbs during the last two decades. Take this piece on 18 Cities Whose Suburbs Are Rapidly Turning into Slums. Why is this happening? Certainly, in some cases, like New York, the poor are being priced out of cities. Instead of putting on our party hats and kazoos, as many urbanists seem to want, we should ask if this new form of out-of-sight/out-of-mind segregation isn’t  evil. But that’s not the only reason. 

Certainly part of it is the collapse of the US economy since the late 1960s, but there’s more. Take a look at this article by Hanna Rosen from 2008 in the Atlantic Monthly in which she links the diffusion of poverty to government programs to get rid of the projects. As areas of concentrated poverty in cities are undone, poverty diffuses into a broader territory both within suburbs and within second cities (as in the case of Memphis, which is her focus).  

Network City is a complex place, a palimpsest of failed neoliberalist and Fordist policies. Unfortunately it is also not a very happy place, either, once you get past the shiny bits. 

 

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Media for Historians of Architecture

I am delighted to announce that I will be succeeding Beatriz Colomina as the review editor of the media section of the Journal of Society of Architectural Historians.

It will be my charge to edit articles on Web sites, films, software, digital books, databases, and other media at a moment in which my field is undergoing a revolutionary transition. I am in debt to Beatriz for paving the way by creating a stellar review section, to David Brownlee, JSAH editor for inviting me to take part in his journal, and to Dean Wigley for his support in this new endeavor. 

If you are a historian of architecture and you read my blog, please do contact me using the form on the left. This is a most exciting appointment. 

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