Thursday, March 30, 2006
FITNR complains that I haven't complained about Mike Davis's article in The Nation. Well geez, I saw it yesterday for the first time, it only has one small, gratuitous slur of New Urbanism (not like some other articles by Davis), and most of what it says seems to be true: New Orleans is in a lot of trouble.*
John Anderson, an electrician turned developer and one of the most conservative New Urbanists I know (developers tend to be conservative), wrote this today on the NewUrb list:
Considering the scale and severity of the problems in New Orleans, Kroloff's curtainwall Z building proposal is an act of callous hubris. He should be ashamed. If he is incapable of shame, he should be exposed as a shameless opportunist.
FITNR also mentions Kabacoff. I don't know much about him and haven't seen the River Garden project that's behind FITNR's comment (UDPATE: I'm going to see it April 21.). Ourossoff linked River Garden and New Urbanism, but I'll wait until I've seen the project to say more. I do know Kabacoff's not a member of the CNU and doesn't go to congresses, but that doesn't mean I think he can't do good urbanism: despite what some people think, the CNU isn't actually a cult.
BTW, Moule & Polyzoides, whom I mentioned in the post, have resigned in Biloxi, for reasons that contradict the usual slurs from Davis, Kroloff, et al. Letter below.
* Besides, I've got something in the works.
23 March, 2006
Dear David, Ricky and Leland:
We are writing this letter to provide further explanation of why we are resigning from being further involved in planning the rebuilding of Biloxi. This has been a very difficult decision to make because, in our time there, we gained a profound understanding of the deep need to help the citizens of your city collaboratively decide its future. We are leaving with a deep appreciation of Mississippi and Mississippians and and are honored to now count you among our good friends.
Very simply, while we respect the rights of Biloxi officials to set priorities, we believe that the decisions that are now being made are
outside of a holistic planning process - -accepting the FEMA maps/guidelines, allowing casino operators to drive infrastructure and
design decisions, promoting unchecked real estate speculation and up-zoning- -are all incompatible with a community-based design approach.
We feel very strongly that every effort should be made to restore the existing East Biloxi neighborhoods, keep the less advantaged residents in place and invigorate their livelihoods. Their interests should be balanced with those of the gaming industry in a way that grows opportunity for all. But the scenario that is being set in motion precludes providing for near-in worker housing, the restoration of beloved neighborhoods and a more sensitively designed casino district.
Uncritically accepting the FEMA maps in their entirely without any exploration of alternatives is a mistake. It is clear that there are many technologies and techniques that can be used to create a home at grade that can withstand hurricane forces. Similarly, we believe the FEMA proposed buildings on stilts need further study. Aside from their inability to create good neighborhoods, respond to ADA standards, their extravagant cost, they are vulnerable to uplift winds and may not be the safest choice for Coastal reconstruction.
The messy cocktail of high-rise casinos and condos, multilevel parking garages, few remaining cottages and strip centers will be an even worse environment, an unpleasant place to live. The memory of East Biloxi will vanish and the City will be scarred forever.
If that weren’t enough, it is our experience many times over that the long drawn out planning process being proposed will create more harm than good by turning any swift reasonable resolution of issues into a protracted political battle that will drive both residents and investors away.
Finally, we really cannot participate in any planning effort where we have no communication with the council and the mayor.
Liz Moule and Stefanos Polyzoides
Cc: Henry Barbour
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Davis starts with his conclusions and works backwards. And he's a serial liar. I'm sorry, anybody who still believes in the prophet Marx in 2006 is an idiot. And I say that as a flaming liberal.
80% of NU is just trees, sidewalks, and porches. How can that be bad?! I suppose we should all be living in geodesic domes on the moon instead.
Posted by: Chris at Mar 30, 2006 6:36:24 PM
FWIW, if this is Pres Kabacoff of Historic Restoration, Inc, his team's project to restore the Nissen Building Art Deco skyscraper in Winston-Salem,NC (http://www.nissenapartments.com/site.php)
is perhaps the best work in the city in 20-30 years. This is high praise because there have been some particularly good projects of late done by DeWayne Anderson.
Posted by: Anonymous at Mar 31, 2006 12:32:16 PM
The stars must have aligned since a right-wing fanatic is in agreement with Chris.
Now if you'll excuse me while I take a shower. LOL
Posted by: Kinch at Mar 31, 2006 12:59:35 PM
I can't figure out exactly what you and the Mike Davises of the world are fighting about, when it comes to New Orleans and the rest of the hurricane-damaged Gulf. Each of you claims to have the interests of the low-income and working class residents at heart, and each of you claims that some "other"--either the evil starchitects / Postmodernists or the the evil corporations / right-wingers / New Urbanists--is out to radically transform the region, to the detriment of said residents. What gives?
Posted by: Questioner at Mar 31, 2006 6:26:07 PM
Can you explain this to a non-architect/planner: Kroloff's curtainwall Z building proposal
Posted by: Mark Folse at Apr 1, 2006 9:22:26 AM
My take on this is a little different than yours. First, I first learned about Davis from a book recommended by several New Urbanists, City of Quartz. It's a good book (although there's a different take on it here).
So I was predisposed to like Davis. Next thing I knew, he was calling me (as part of the Mississippi charrette) a racist and consenting tool of Republican fascists (that would be Henry Barbour and ?). I didn't like that much.
I've said in the comments I think his latest article makes some good points. I'd like it better if he didn't take a gratuitous slap at New Urbanism.
As for the rest, you're mixing up Mike Davis and Reed Kroloff. Kroloff has been on a public campaign to keep New Urbanists out of New Orleans. At the same time, he's shown that he has no alternative. He is one of the reasons why so little has happened in New Orleans. See Davis's articles for some other reasons. But note that my complaints about Davis and my complaints about Kroloff are two different things.
Posted by: john at Apr 1, 2006 5:43:14 PM
"Curtainwall Z building" is not a technical term. It's just an ad hoc description of the building pictured here.
Posted by: john at Apr 1, 2006 5:46:40 PM
What I mean is, you and Mike Davis each seem to be under the impression that the ordinary working people of the Gulf are in jeopardy of having their way of life taken away from them by people with agendas who have no understanding of their needs. The difference is, Mike Davis thinks it's the New Urbanists, in cahoots somehow with Republicans (or something), who threaten the working people of the Gulf; you think it's the Kroloffs of the world who constitute the threat. What's up with that? How can two seemingly intelligent and reasonable people see the same situation so differently? Has anybody consulted the actual people of the Gulf, including those still in diaspora, to see what they prefer?
Posted by: Questioner at Apr 1, 2006 11:18:33 PM
Answer: to a great degree, reality is what we think it is. When George Bush says one thing and John Kerry another, they aren't necessarily lying. They can simply see the situation very differently.
Davis is a Marxist. Exactly why he thinks what he does, I can't explain, but that seems to have something to do with it.
If you look at this post again, you'll see that FITNR is saying I should be more concerned about Davis: I'm not.
I'm not talking about "the Kroloffs," I'm talking about Reed Kroloff. He explicitly says he is working to keep the New Urbanists out of New Orleans. It doesn't seem very controversial for me to say that, since he says it in print.
Has anyone consulted the people of the Gulf? Yes. In New Orleans, they're very upset with the situation. They want help. They are powerless to get it. They need Nagin and FEMA, and to a lesser degree the state and the US, to make decisions.
I'm concerned about the citizens of New Orleans, but less concerned about Kroloff than I was, because I think he's lost.
Posted by: john at Apr 2, 2006 1:09:07 AM
Okay, they don't want Kroloff's solution to their many, many problems. But do they want New Urbanism? What do they want? I mean, apart from having their neighborhoods snatched up from under them by carpetbaggers of any description?
Posted by: Questioner at Apr 2, 2006 7:26:00 PM
First, they want their city, homes and lives back. Second, they want the old problems of corruption, crime, education and racism improved. Third, they want a say in what happend. They want to be listened to.
In Mississippi and at the three Louisiana charrettes they feel they have been listened to, and that good ideas have been proposed to them.
You seem skeptical about the New Urban charrettes. If so, why is that?
Posted by: john massengale at Apr 3, 2006 8:39:48 AM
I'm not particularly skeptical about the charettes. I'm skeptical when you or Mike Davis or anybody else claims to speak for the displaced people of the Gulf. I've heard very little directly from them, and a lot from people claiming to have their interests at heart (and to be defending them from people who don't).
Posted by: Questioner at Apr 3, 2006 5:58:00 PM
Sure, that's a reasonable position. Where you have it wrong is when you say I claim to speak for the people of the Gulf. I report on my experiences on the Gulf and on my beliefs, and pass on newspaper stories from the Times-Picayune and the Biloxi Sun-Herald.
Posted by: john at Apr 3, 2006 6:11:23 PM
John is right that he has not claimed to speak for the downtrodden. For me personally, anyone who claims to do that are thought by me to charlettans right off the bat.
Besides, it is those people who claim to speak for the people that are creating all the problems. People in Washington, from the President on down have asked that we speak with a single voice. The problem is that we still have so many people saying different things that those in Washington don't know who to listen to. Thus, nothing gets done.
Posted by: Kinch at Apr 10, 2006 1:50:24 PM