“Classical” Thoughts on Solving Urban Planning


Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonderandhome.com

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Chip bait if there ever was…Report

  2. Avatar Aaron David says:

    I would like to say that the Corbusian dream died of Brazilia, but I am sure there are some people still deeply in love with the idea.Report

  3. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    A wonderful essay, thanks for the link.
    I was surprised though, to read not a word about Leon Krier who is a Classicist city planner and fierce critic of modern planning, especially functional zoning.

    “Krier believes that the city should be designed around the physical capabilities of the human body, resulting in city centers that take no longer than 10 minutes to walk across and building heights that rise no more than 100 steps.”

    Although the Modern style is still popular among architects, what seems to have died is the concept of modernity as being a transformational age, where we are on the brink of some shining new utopia.

    What the essay doesn’t explore is that the new cities projected, are almost all outside of Europe or North America; most will be in Africa or Asia, where notably the Classical and Modern traditions don’t have indigenous roots.
    In looking at the designs that the nouvea riche Chinese and Arab clients have commissioned in places like Shenzhen and Dubai, neither stylistic vocabulary seems much in evidence.

    Which might be the larger point, that if we are standing on the brink of a new world, it will be defined in ways that don’t particularly need our approval or even participation.Report

    • Dubai is interesting in these discussions. Its about as “Master Planned” as you get, though in a different meaning. Having spent a large chunk of the 2000’s in and out of the Middle East, the growth there was amazing but I don’t know that stylistically they thought it out as much as they probably could have. “Bettering the best” seems more the focus, that while luxurious doesn’t really lend to an overall aesthetic.

      China, and even perhaps some of the rumored Chinese investment in Africa, may be area’s to watch in this regard but who knows how much to style they will heed too.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    On often told joke about law school is that its a vocational school pretending to be a graduate school. You can tell a similar joke about architects that they are tradesman pretending to be artists. Sorry, Chip. The reason why so many rejected the classicism that the public liked was because they wanted to be doing something new and exciting. This meant modernism. If this meant that the desires of the commissioning public had to be ignored, so be it.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Much new development takes the form of suburban sprawl, which is wasteful of precious land, and has little character of its own.

    That argument has always annoyed me, but I then, I have always lived in the suburbs. Most suburbs develop around what were once little hamlets/villages outside of the city. Those centers often retain their character as neighborhoods are built around them.

    I also think the opportunity to push people back into the cities is fast disappearing. Self-driving cars are going to make the suburbs more popular than ever.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Since the Renaissance, a more scholarly approach has prevailed.

    Except this is wrong. The Greco Roman revival of, say, the American founding era, was based on the gross misconception that everything in Ancient Greece and Rome was pure white(ish) marble. As we know now, all that ancient stuff is white is because it’s been washed by the rain and bleached by the sun for millennia. Back in the day, all that stuff was brightly (and some would say garishly) colored.

    Also, building the Corbusian city, razing large tracts through “urban renewal” may have reached it apothesis in the 1950s-60s. But it didn’t start there. The L’Enfant plan for DC was no where near organic, and most of towns and cities of America founded as early as the mid 18th century were deliberately platted (usually in a straightforward grid pattern). What we now consider “Typical Paris” was mostly created in the 2nd Empire by Louis Napoleon as a deliberate plan of urban renewal (and also to widen the streets to try to stop all the Les Mis style barricades that had popped off on and off for the previous 80-90 years)

    A deeply frustrating thing in Washington DC is almost solely held by the ‘classic’ style of downtown Federal government buildings. They always were built with many entrances, and usually, one grand entrance. But between ADA, and far more to blame, modern security theater, they’re all closed off. So, a core design feature, that is usually both functionally useful and aesthetically pleasing, is replaced by something that is greatly inferior on both counts.Report