An Ismism

Response to "Green Building: Are cities the best place to live? Are suburbs OK? A fight grows in urban planning, with Harvard at the center" from the Boston Globe.

Carl Wiens for The Boston Globe
When Waldheim and Duany descend from the shelter of their ivy league keeps long enough to exchange blows over whose theory concerning urban design and planning is most relevant, the result is both underwhelming and forehead-slappingly-ignorant. Waldheim's vision for landscape urbanism advocates and defends sprawl while Duany's stomps with pouted lip its rejection of the now vilified cul de sac (all the while eating up precious open space with arrogant greenfield development).

As the way of any good overly thought out idea, both are inordinately idealistic and naturally detached from reality. Both would benefit from admitting that development and sprawl are a direct consequence of the availability of two things: clean water and more importantly cheap energy.

If energy is cheap, sprawl will continue. If energy is expensive, a dense urban environment will be not only desired, but necessary. Prescription of taste and desire to the proletariat is a hold over of modernist classicist dogma while the simple action of the demand and supply curve more directly informs how we live. Just as in ancient Greece where the size of the city was dictated by a day's horse and cart ride from the nearby farms, the form, mass and density of our cities are limited only by our access to cheap gasoline.

Listening to the prattle from the detached vestibules of our so called elite universities, reminds one of a succinct Hardy quote:
(The dog) …"was, in fact, taken and tragically shot at twelve o’clock that same day–another instance of the untoward fate which so often attends dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of reasoning to its logical conclusion, and attempt perfectly consistent conduct in a world made up so largely of compromise."

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