Preservation

I hate the way things look.

No, I mean it. Cities and towns are really ugly.

Is it just that architecture suffered the same general decline as everything else? Are we so consumed with trying to build stuff fast and cheap in order to maximize profits? Has the advent of the automobile demanded so many changes that our landscapes and our traditional ways of gathering together have been forever shattered? Or has post-modern philosophy infiltrated even the very way we design and construct our buildings and public spaces?

Whatever the case, I’d like you to perform a simple thought exercise. Imagine various structures or areas in your city, town, or country that have been designated “historical” and thus worthy of special protection and preservation.

…what do they look like?

…when were they built?

…why do people like them so much?

And now try to imagine anything built since, let’s say, 1945, and think about whether they, too, will be worthy of historical preservation, or if civilizations of the future–God grant that they still be American!–will just raze the eyesores and build something new.

I use this as an example a lot, but ponder if you will Boston City Hall.

City Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

Look at this monstrosity!

What feelings is it supposed to elicit? What sensation is the citizen of Boston supposed to feel when he gazes upon that concrete turd?

And the whole area around it is a red, brick expanse of nothingness, appropriately enough called Government Center. Continue reading “Preservation”

The Contradictions of City Life

We like to say we go to cities for the freedom: Jobs, culture, excitement. And yet living and working in one, you exhibit more herd-like behavior than one does in the country. 

I’ve lived in both, and for the last two years have been back in the city. And I’m not knocking those who enjoy urban living, but it’s full of contradictions that I personally find unfulfilling. 

Maybe when I was younger, I loved city life more. Now, in my mid-thirties, I realize that it might not be for me. 

Contradiction: Thousands and thousands of people meet crushing loneliness. How can you be so saturated in humanity but feel so isolated? How do all of these people and all of this stuff going on make you so depressed? This has been a recognized phenomenon for some time, and no one has a satisfactory answer. 

My take is that populations that are a) too large and b) too diverse have low trust and cohesion. It’s simple. If you feel littlenperceived connection to that teeming mass of humanity that seems almost too big, you won’t make the effort to get to know them. Because why bother? They’re probably transients anyway, here today, somewhere else tomorrow.  Continue reading “The Contradictions of City Life”