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Den suburbane framtidsspøken

Denne troen på elektriske biler er en del av de amerikanske eliteskolenes urbane planleggeres visjoner for det bærekraftige suburbia, som Norge er en del av, da vi i realiteten er redusert til en amerikansk suburb. J.H. Kunstler har et nytt og viktig essay om saken, som setter elektriske biler inn i sin rette sammenheng.
“The elite graduate schools of urban planning have yet another new vision of the future. Lately, they see a new-and-improved suburbia—based on self-driving electric cars, “drone deliveries at your doorstep,” and “teardrop-shaped one-way roads” (otherwise known as cul-de-sacs)—as the coming sure thing. It sounds suspiciously like yesterday’s tomorrow, the George Jetson utopia that has been the stock-in-trade of half-baked futurism for decades. It may be obvious that for some time now we have lived in a reality-optional culture, and it’s vividly on display in the cavalcade of techno-narcissism that passes for thinking these days in academia.”
– The Infinite Suburb Is an Academic Joke

Våre politikere står selvsagt fremst i denne akademiske spøken, da vi jo er tomtenisselandet framfor noen!

Svaret er naturligvis nyurbanismen, først og fremst å reetablere den seinmiddelalderske kjøpstaden (Village Towns), slik vi finner det i Tolfa. Trolig går neste sommerferie til Tolfa, så da får jeg tro jeg klarer å overbevise kona om at dette er et flott sted å leve, istedenfor i Gjøviks endeløse og bratte/glatte suburber.

Et lite utsnitt fra Gjøviks endeløse, bratte og glatte, meningsløse suburbane menneskeørkener.

Kunstler avslutter essayet med å peke på denne muligheten, som på sikt er den eneste muligheten, og ikke meningsløse suburber med hver vår elektriske bil og droner som leverer dagligvarene ved inngangsdøra.
“All the techno-grandiose wishful thinking in the world does not alter this reality. The intelligent conclusion from all this ought to be obvious: Restructuring the American living arrangement to something other than “infinite” suburban sprawl based on limitless car dependency.

As it happens, the New Urbanist movement recognized this dynamic beginning in the early 1990s and proposed a return to traditional walkable neighborhoods, towns, and cities as the remedy. It has been a fairly successful reform effort, with hundreds of municipal land-use codes rewritten to avert the inevitable suburban sprawl mandates of the old codes. The movement also produced hundreds of new town projects all over the country to demonstrate that good urbanism was possible in new construction, as well as downtown makeovers in places earlier left for dead like Providence, Rhode Island, and Newburgh, New York.

When the elite graduate schools finally noticed the New Urbanism movement, it provoked extreme jealousy and hostility because they hadn’t thought of it themselves—it was a product of the property-development industry. Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, in particular, had been lost for decades in raptures of Buck Rogers modernism, concerned solely with “cutting edge” aesthetics—that is, architectural fashion statements aimed at status seeking. They affected to be offended by the retrograde front porches and picket fences of the New Urbanists, but they were unable to develop any coherent alternative vision of a plausible future urbanism—because there really wasn’t one.

Instead, around 2002 Harvard came up with a loopy program they called “Landscape Urbanism,” which was a half-baked revision of Ian McHarg’s old Design with Nature idea from the 1970s. Design with Nature had spawned hundreds of PUDs (Planned Unit Developments) of single-family houses nestled in bosky, natural settings and sheathed in environmental-looking cedar, and scores of university housing “complexes” bermed into the terrain (with plenty of free parking). Mostly, McHarg’s methodology was concerned with managing water runoff. It did not result in holistic towns, neighborhoods, or cities.

The projects of so-called Landscape Urbanism were not about buildings, and especially the relationship between buildings, other buildings, and the street. They viewed suburbia as a nirvana that simply required better storm-water drainage and the magic elixir of “edginess” to improve its long-term prospects.

Apparently MIT, down the street from Harvard, got jealous. They had snootily ignored the New Urbanism movement too, and done next to nothing on their own to rethink the next phase of the urban condition, besides the usual stale fantasies derived from the Radiant City playbook of Le Corbusier, the Swiss modernist who tried to destroy Paris in the 1920s with a skyscrapers-in-a-park scheme (which ended up being appropriated for the notorious American housing projects for the poor of the 1950s).

That’s where MIT’s Berger came in, having previously been at Harvard during the birth pangs of Landscape Urbanism. He brought over to MIT the P-Rex Lab (The Project for Reclamation Excellence) which put a “cutting edge” super high-tech veneer on what was still just environmental mitigation on previously used landscapes—pushing polluted soil around with front-end loaders.

Berger’s P-Rex lab showed absolutely no interest in the particulars of traditional urban design: street-and-block grids, street and building typologies, code-writing for standards and norms in construction, et cetera. They showed no interest in the human habitat per se. Berger and his gang were simply promoting a fantasy they called the “global suburbia.” Their fascination with the suburbs rested on three pillars: 1) the fact that suburbia was already there; 2) the presumption that mass car use would continue to enable that settlement pattern; and 3) a religious faith in technological deliverance from the resource and capital limits that boded darkly for the continuation of suburban sprawl.

I will tell you without ceremony what the future actually holds for the inhabited terrain of North America. The big cities will have to contract severely and the process will be fraught and disorderly. The action will move to the small cities and small towns, especially the places that have a meaningful relationship with farming, food production, and the continent’s inland waterways. The suburbs have three destinies, none of them mutually exclusive: slums, salvage, and ruins. The future has mandates of its own. If we want to remain civilized, we will be compelled to return to a landscape composed of relationships between town and country, at a scale that comports with the resource realities of the future.

These days the failure of American imagination, especially at the university level, is epic.”


An Interview With James Howard Kunstler. The American Conservative magazine interviews JHK on strip malls, environmentalism, and Christianity.


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