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Looking for Someone to Blame for Bad Architecture? Look in the Mirror, Says Op-Ed

Architecture Critic Mark Lamster attended the recent Congress for The New Urbanism annual conference, this year held in Dallas. One panel in particular, "How to Rebuild Architecture," proved informative.
May 7, 2015, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Mark Lamster's critique of CNU 23 took the "How to Rebuild Architecture" panel from the event as its inspiration. The panel was inspired by a recent op-ed in the New York Times, authored by Steven Bingler and Martin Pedersen, and shared here on Planetizen. Lamster takes the article and the panel as fertile ground for both the state of architecture as well as the professional and political agendas of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

After distinguishing between "new urbanism" as a general concept about progressive urbanism and "New Urbanism" as and organized movement with a governing body, Lamster goes on to detail some of the highlights and controversies of the history of New Urbanism so far.

That primer leads up to Lamster's larger point about the state of contemporary architecture, which is informed by CNU's opinions about modernism and the business realities of the contemporary practice of architecture:

"And here were come to the crux of the problem with the CNU’s rebuilding architecture session. Its assumption is that the problem with the built environment, the reason that there is so much junk building out there, is because architects have lost their design principles. This gives tremendous agency to architects; the problem can be solved if only they can find the right language, the 'radical middle.'"

Lamster, however, would assign the blame for so many "boorish and boring works" to a larger cohort, including, the implication goes, planners:

"A developer looking to make a quick dollar by building and flipping property has little interest in building for the long term. In any number of ways—our building codes, our housing policies, our preservation statutes—we systemically encourage bad building."

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Published on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 in The Dallas Morning News
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