Steve Jobs' Legacy and the Return of Civic Beauty

Planners, architects, and developers made America ugly in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, opines Ross Douthat. In this piece, he questions whether or not the aesthetic revival led by Steve Jobs could be applied to our buildings and spaces.

"The age of architectural Brutalism is past, but between the travails of planning-by-committee and the red tape of bureaucracy, our civic projects still tend to be uninspired in design and interminable in execution. (The newest additions to the Washington Mall, the World War II and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials, look like rejected rough drafts for monuments rather than inspiring finished products.) For all its successes, the new urbanism sometimes feels more like a reclamation project than a renaissance: it's saved the row houses of yesterday without building the neighborhoods of tomorrow."'

Full Story: Up From Ugliness
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Now Steven Jobs is a City Planner? please.

With all due respect to the memory of Steven Jobs, a man who did much to shape our present world, his urban planning legacy - in the form of the new Apple headquarters - will not likely live up to the quality and ingenuity of his small devices.
Apple is taking a giant step backwards in building a hermetically sealed, immense circle of building far removed from any connection with the surrounding community. It is a planning throwback to the isolated campuses of 1960's - IBM, Johns-Manville and Weyerhauser, fortresses unto themselves. No doubt the building will be impressive, in the way the Emerald City was impressive to Dorothy - something not of this world, not of this community. ~ Sacramennah

Yesterday's Vision of Tomorrow

You are exactly right: this is the mid-century modernist ideal, which creates developments that are totally auto-dependent because they are isolated from their surroundings - the sort of thing that was already recognized as a failure 50 years ago, when Jane Jacobs wrote. They use a big-name avant-gardist architect, Norman Foster, who specializes in creating icons, and they forgot about creating workable cities.

It is interesting that conservatives like Ross Douthat are now the biggest admirers of this sort of futuristic design. The conservatives want to go back to yesterday's vision of tomorrow.

Charles Siegel

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