An amazing email of images was in my inbox, relating to the studio’s emphasis on LIGHT, but also on the issue of urban context, urban development, etc.
The email was comparing Detroit and Hiroshima, the complete destruction of Hiroshima in 1945 and the vibrant city today, vs. the booming insdutrial city of Detroit in 1945 and the urban blight you see today.
The email implied we ought to be ashamed of Detroit. Which is true. But they are all shameful: the bombing, the excessive greed and watefulness and light pollution of Japanese capitalism, and the poverty of shrinking cities in America. “Progress” as we’ve defined it, is not a sustainable idea. Bruno Taut wrote a book after WWI (Die Aufloesung der Staedte, 1920), and F.L. Wright wrote a book in the Gret Depression (The Disappearing City, 1932) that both advocated very strongly that we abandon our cities, these nightmares of industrial capitalism, and all move to the countryside for a more benign existence. Nature, both architects were convinced, would soon take over the cities and return them to a natural state. Anything that can create the Grand Canyon can make Wall Street look similar. It looks like that’s starting to happen in Detroit. Like Detroit, Flint, Buffalo, Cleveland, and others, Pittsburgh too is a shrinking city. CMU’s “Remaking Cities Institute,” and websites like http://www.shrinkingcities.com are working in a whole new mode of planning. Flint was in the news this summer: they are spending city dollars removing houses and even the pavement of the streets in several neighborhoods, letting grass grow: there will be green parks there soon, they hope. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/business/22flint.html