The Downtown Dystopia and the 'Continued March of Sameness'

Architecture critic Aaron Betsky provides a new take urban dystopia: bland and homogenous. The antidote, he argues, can be found on the edges.
October 9, 2014, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Aaron Betsky begins an article titled "Downtown Dystopia" by riffing on the recent Occupy Hong Kong protests: "Separate from the politics of the occurrence, it makes me wonder whether the notion that the city core is still a place of vibrancy we need to put all our money on as the hope for urbanity is really true."

Threatening the great dream of urbanity renewed, according to Betsky, is all that is banal:

"[The city core] seems to be under attack by blandness and homogenization, rather than just by the suburbanization. People might be moving back to downtowns, as they are here in Cincinnati, but only if and when it is safe, and only if it means that they can gather at Starbucks and shop at Whole Foods. The social mix is going away just as quickly as the yuppies arrive, as are retail and any sense of difference between different cities."

Betsky cites the example of Mecca and Las Vegas as faltering models of urban revitalization before recounting a personal anecdote from a recent trip to three European cities when he was struck by "the continued march of sameness."

Betsky's argument, in response to these conditions, is to focus on the "Brooklynization of our edges," or, as he describes it, "the development of vibrant cores or just moments of diversity away from our dead and deadening downtowns."

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Published on Monday, October 6, 2014 in Architect
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