Confusing Architectural Tastes for Moral Judgement

Kate Wagner argues that moral arguments about what kind of architecture is fitting, can stand in the way of good planning.

Read Time: 1 minute

April 19, 2018, 10:00 AM PDT

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark

The Station at Potomac Yard

Jeff Schlossberg / The Station at Potomac Yard

Are skin-deep moral judgements fueling the housing affordability crisis?

Kate Wagner says architecture is a scapegoat for bigger problems with housing in cities. Arguing that both NIMBYs and YIMBYs see a moral component to the aesthetics they prefer. "Aesthetic moralism is unfortunately trenchant in the urban housing debate, usually on the NIMBY side, which often argues that new housing destroys 'neighborhood character,'" Wagner writes in Common Edge. This causes conflict when the need should dictate the look or type of development. "Affordable mid and high-rise towers are the most effective way to house the greatest number of people on the smallest parcel of land, something that’s desperately needed in places like San Francisco, where the value of land is so high," Wagner writes.

Still the left can fall victim to aesthetic moralism as well, by vilifying modern developments. "Often, both luxury and affordable or public developments have to conform to certain aesthetic standards in order to pass a city’s required design review process before the proposed developments can be approved," Wagner argues.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 in Common Edge

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

A tent covered in blue and black tarps sits on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk with the white ziggurat-topped L.A. City Hall looming in the background

L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

Local governments often come to different conclusions about how to address homelessness within their respective borders, but varying approaches only exacerbate the problem.

February 3 - Shelterforce Magazine

Rendering of mixed-use development with parks and stormwater retention on former Houston landfill site

A Mixed-Use Vision for Houston Landfill Site

A local nonprofit is urging the city to consider adding mixed-use development to the site, which city officials plan to turn into a stormwater detention facility.

February 3 - Urban Edge

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest in the country.

February 3 - Urban Milwaukee