1. Life stage sociology does not explain the basis of today’s ill-feeling nor the roots of its ever more conspicuous optimism. That explanation has to do with the ill-effects of global sprawl and its oil-based economy. Add in the zeitgeist of the construction industry and yes the premises of most architects, planners and designers. All these forces compose a barrier to the emerging future which more and more are facing with optimism. The optimism is due to the fact that they/we know that things have to get better. And that the way this will happen is by taking control of life at the individual level and understanding that we build from the bottom, we create from our own lights and we do not accept what we are being given in the way of decisions, policies and premises. This is a deeply political moment and the level of hypocrisy that dominates the output of those beholden to the dying economy of the present is turning into the humorous display of the emperor’s clothes. Beyond it lies a world that we have yet to conceive and build. It will be a tad more democratic, tolerant and helpful than today’s world. And its signature will be a substantial undercurrent of iconoclasm regarding what we are told and how we must be.

  2. David Tomes says

    Very interesting arguments Ben! It is interesting to me that so much great planning in America was done beginning with the Columbia Exposition in Chicago. We were a younger aged nation, largely immigrant based within a generation or two and seemingly we could accomplish plans that benefitted the masses. Good planning was good for everyone….poor, wealthy, commerce, jobs, etc. Interesting too that many plans weren’t “public or government” undertakings. The Burnham Plan for Chicago driven by civic leadership, women’s club and the powerful people of that city. Here in home city of Louisville the Olmsted Parks plan was driven by the Salmagundi Club and the Women’s Club. Today, as a sitting Planning Commissioner I watch us go through years of public process and trying to “hear every voice” and words put into “plans” that are so generalized as to be very useful. the Burnham Plan was a Comprehensive Plan that has lasted for generations and included not just words but beautiful drawings and visions for the future.
    As someone who grew up in a lower income family in the Chicago area I benefitted greatly from the Burnham Plan. In the past great plans were accomplished outside “the public process” and in control of the rich and powerful. Were they more socially responsible then than now or was there a better understanding of the concept of all ships rise in a rising tide?


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