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.
April 19, 2018, 10am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Jeff Schlossberg

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.

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Published on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 in Common Edge
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