urban design in '99

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at tsoft.com
Sat Aug 28 11:47:54 PDT 1999

A growing movement among city governments and developers, often reacting to the annoyances created by urban drunks and panhandlers, seeks to replace public inactivity, whether on sidewalks or in parks, with convenient and efficient public motion. Commerce displaces idling; sidewalk-sitting is banned; private skyways and tunnels supplant public sidewalks; pedestrian-only streets are opened to traffic; mall atriums displace town squares. Preferably, most of this public motion leads people to places where financial transactions occur. These transactions enrich private businesses, and the city, via taxes on the transactions. Parks, once known as places to rest, are reconfigured as paths or plazas or forums, leading to or surrounded by shops. The most viable spaces for idling and meeting others are the privately owned indoor spaces that are the common spaces of the contemporary era: malls. The city itself becomes an open object to be passed through freely, a web of arterials linking the central stores to the wider expanse of bedroom communities surrounding them. -------------------

The transformation of public space into spaces of commercial transactions is a perfect design metaphor, for the neo-liberal vision of post-modernity, the State as Capital's finest monument.

As the discursive metaphor of post-modernity we have the complete aestheticization of our political space--as an entirely moral realm of ever more refined sensibilities, sensitivities, and judgments, where in reciprocity the State becomes the Church.

With its architecture, design, and discourse to match the new world order is rendered a complete cultural ensemble.

Chuck Grimes

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list