Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quotes of the day: architecture and planning

From the review of the documentary "Urbanized" by Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times, "Critic's Notebook: 'Urbanized' examines the growth of city life."

-- Urbanized: A Documentary Film by Gary Hustwit

From the article:

And it includes the most memorable critique I've yet heard of Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, a nonprofit group that hired several talented architects, including Thom Mayne, Shigeru Ban and David Adjaye, to build sustainable prototypes for new housing after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans. The analysis comes — in martini-dry form — from Grover Mouton, director of the Regional Urban Design Center at Tulane.

He refers to Pitt with what is either genuine or tongue-in-cheek naivete — I suspect the latter — as "the movie star," professing to have forgotten his name. And he zeros in on the limitations of projects like Make It Right, which wound up producing a series of architectural one-offs rather than a blueprint for sustainable development in New Orleans at the level of the block or neighborhood.

"The problem with the Lower Ninth Ward is that there is no urban-design recovery plan," Mouton says. "It's a bunch of architects from the West Coast coming in doing all these buildings. To do something like that without a plan — and without a landscape plan, or a landscape architect — goes against every simple little rule" of urban planning and civic design.

Mouton concludes with a line that might as well serve as the mission statement for "Urbanized," given the movie's interest in looking beyond the flash created by high-profile architectural icons to understand the role of comprehensive, forward-looking planning in improving city life.

"Just because the architects are so divinely wonderful," Mouton says, "isn't going to make the place wonderful."

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