Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts

Upcoming Excerpts: Suburbanism & How Transit Shapes Experience

As is often the case, I've bitten off something probably far too involved and long to write. But it is progressing nicely, and to paraphrase Apocalypse Now, someday, it's gonna be done. But for now, two excerpts for the new year.

In the broadest of strokes, this was a worldview which fundamentally conceived of the city as a dirty, congested, and miasmic place—a site of both physical and moral decay. By the postwar era of urban renewal, the 19th Century industrial city had come to be seen as a particularly harmful relic: outdated, decaying, and in dire need of replacement. In fact, in the minds of many experts and political leaders, the combination of aging buildings, incompatible land uses, and "disreputable" people and their activities was seen as a literal form of cancer: an infectious, growing "blight" which threatened to kill the urban organism unless it was quickly excised. Undergirding these beliefs was the deep faith of early- to mid-Twentieth Century America in the necessary inevitability of progress. Technological innovation, it seemed obvious, when combined with rational, technocratic planning, would necessarily lead to ever more healthy and prosperous places.
Put simply, transportation facilities often lie at the experiential heart of everyday urban existence. They are some of the most important spaces through which we experience any given city. They shape not only how we interact with urban space, but also our psychological understandings of its shape, its size, and its character.
-Upcoming excerpts

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Upcoming Excerpt: Nervi's George Washington Bridge Bus Station

It's been a long while since I've done this! A quick peek at the writing I've been doing on the urbanism of the refurbished George Washington Bridge Bus Station:

If the construction of the [Trans-Manhattan Expressway] below had not already done enough to divide the neighborhood, Nervi's [George Washington Bridge Bus Station] would go a long way towards finishing the job. Amongst urbanists and architecture critics, it has become a bit of a trope to liken 20th Century urban structures to walls, but few such structures earn that description quite as literally as the ground-level of Nervi's station.
-Excerpt from an upcoming article.

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Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts: Port Authority Bus Terminal


Contrary to popular belief, yes, writing continues! Hopefully this piece will be finished soon. For now, please enjoy another excerpt, this time on the Port Authority Bus Terminal:

To the Port Authority's credit, it commissioned and largely implemented a plan that has made the [Port Authority Bus] Terminal much safer. This included some of the first explicit uses of holistic, urban-conscious design to create deliberately defensive architecture. Sightlines, for example, were opened, blind corners reduced or eliminated, and strong attempts were made to ensure all open areas of the Terminal were busy at all times—all in order to simulate a Jacobsian "eyes on the street"-like effect.

 But all of these improvements were a means to a very limited end: making the Terminal safer and more efficient for travelers passing through. Almost no attempt was made to placemake, to transform this highly valuable piece of public property into a public space.
-Upcoming excerpt

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Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts: Malls, Urbanity


You know, writing is a long, slow process—certainly not one that suits social media. But fear not, dear reader: progress is being made, and my latest, quite large article is coming soon! Keep your eyes peeled! Until then, here is a brief excerpt to tide you over:

Unfortunately, achieving such a street-like atmosphere has been the unrealized dream of almost every shopping mall since Victor Gruen conceived of the concept. Almost all such malls, alas, instead turn out to be mere simulacra of streets: built to the human scale and for human perception and physical needs, but without any of the other factors that drive urban life, ultimately ending up as sterile homages to bland consumerism.
-Said upcoming article

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Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts: Capacity to Create Public Space


In short, none of the primary actors involved in the Transit Hub have shown much capacity for creating or nurturing spaces that have any greater functionality or social import than a shopping mall, or that are any more welcoming than an airport security line.
-Upcoming Article

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Guess the actors involved ;-). In all seriousness, work continues, and hopefully this article should be ready for you soon!

Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts: Calatrava


Just a quick update to show work continues. I had to work hard to pick an excerpt that was fun, but not too juicy; I have to save some surprise for the final article! Stay tuned, it should be coming soon!

If it is to succeed as a public space, this [the World Trade Center memorial] is the environment that Santiago Calatrava's Transit Hub—and though I am usually aghast at the lone-artist persona falsely ascribed to architects, there can be no doubt that this project carries his name with a little ™ at the end—must overcome.

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Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts: Rent Control


Of course, for many of us, just the mention of rent control is usually enough to either make emotions flare, or worse, make resigned heads shake, a gut reaction screaming out, "Oh no, not this discussion again..."

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Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts: Early Planners


Even if [early city planners'] grand plans could have predicted the perfect number and placement of every type of facility—already a stretch—simply gluing the basic components of a city together does not guaranty the creation of successful, living, or productive place.
-Excerpt from an Upcoming Article

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For those of you who don't follow The Fox and the City's Twitter or Facebook, this will be a new feature: occasional thoughts and excerpts, usually from upcoming articles! Something to let you know what I've been working on, as well as to provide a (hopefully!) interesting stream of bite-size, thought provoking ideas. Also, since these long-form articles take a significant amount of time to write, they will give you more of the The Fox and the City goodness that I'm sure you need and want in your life. If you want these delivered right to your inbox, follow the site on Twitter, like it on Facebook, or subscribe via RSS! The email list will still be reserved for major articles; I don't want to spam your inbox! Enjoy!

Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts: Homogenity


A homogeneous, uninteresting place—one with limited business and little mixing of people, one without community and everyday, life-sustaining businesses, one without a political sense of place shared by many—loses its urban function and much of its urban appeal, no matter what the streets and buildings look like.
-Excerpt from an upcoming article

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Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts: Potential Destruction


Between a governor, Nelson Rockefeller, whose policy towards urban areas was the textbook definition of the road to hell being paved with good intentions, and a vindictive Robert Moses, who was no stranger to demolishing cherished places to get back at enemies, both real and imagined, Jacobs was right to worry [about the potential destruction of the West Village.]
-Excerpt from an upcoming article

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