What will we design for a World Without End?

Submitted by Susan Miller on Sat, 06/07/2008 - 10:33.


In tomorrow’s NYTimes Magazine, be sure to check out Nicolai Ouroussoff's The New, New City  from that article: “The amount of building becomes obscene without a blueprint,” Koolhaas said. “Each time you ask yourself, Do you have the right to do this much work on this scale if you don’t have an opinion about what the world should be like? We really feel that. But is there time for a manifesto? I don’t know.”

Meanwhile... Water-Starved California Slows Development

What considerations must be had when building in a dessert? Bill MacDermott posted ...and we still keep filling our gas tanks

So what can we learn about balance in the wake of this rapidly shifting balance?

Starchitects are rapidly creating the Metropolis of now in China and the Middle East while cities that once saw the rise of industrialism (like Cleveland) try to grasp a plan to remake and restore the land after the ravages of industrial degradation. We consider bio and phytoremediation now, while they erect high-rises, tossing them up at a frantic pace. We consider urban gardens on reclaimed city lots while they build highways and bridges, dam rivers and hurtle toward a kind of prosperity that they saw come to fruition in the west during last century. We ask what we will do with nuclear waste while they fill the air with coal particulates.

Are we building for buildings, planning for planning sake or is there a human factor here? Are we building for people?

I asked architect, Fritz Haeg how he considered, what influence his considerable sums of time spent with dancers had on his work designing buildings. He looked bewildered. I rephrased. I asked "How do dancers interact with your buildings?" "Oh", he said, "I build them and they move in them." Not a very thoughtful response for someone who seems to be touted as considering environmental sustainability with his Edible Estates. What about the human factor?

What is regional vernacular in architectural terms? What is the architectural vernacular of the Great Lakes region? Are we in America riding on a fast train toward homogeneity? And if we are then will developers in the third world repeat that mistake? Is it monkey see, monkey do? Or will we slow down and apply some thought to this process as resources are dug up, drilled out, pumped out, burned up, sucked dry? Where's the loop? Have we yet realized that the earth is round? And if we haven't what lies ahead on that unforeseeable horizon?

In a world with limited (finite?) natural resources, how do we adequately figure in the human factor? What role does human capital play? What role is there for social capital in designing cities of the 21st century in the US and Europe where we are engaged in urban renewal as opposed to in the third world where insta-cities are rising?

What will we design for a World Without End? Is it Fritz Haeg who knows or was it Fritz Lang?

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