The Politics of Public Works

As Barack Obama takes the oath of office for his second term, Places editor Nancy Levinson argues for an intensified political agenda for architects and urban designers.
January 27, 2013, 7am PST | Places Journal
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The longstanding tension between the pressing need for public action and the tenacious culture of privatization remains the critical dilemma of U.S. politics.

Nothing underscores the need to resolve this tension — and to commit once again to the ideals of collective purpose and common good — than the accelerating crisis of climate change.

"We seem to have lost the political capacity to grapple with the big picture, the long range, the global scale," Levinson writes. "To a degree we've even lost the vocabulary."

"In design circles it's as if the perceived failures of mid 20th-century planning — exemplified by top-down urban renewal and personified by the power-brokering Robert Moses — have induced a kind of conceptual paralysis, an inability to formulate the public sector, or public works, in terms not beholden to a discredited history."

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Published on Friday, January 25, 2013 in Places Journal
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