Saturday, December 11, 2010

James Howard Kunster – A Sense of Place.

Here’s another great TED talk that really has the ability to change the way you think about your surroundings, if you let it. James Howard Kunster tells it like it is. When talking about public spaces, urban sprawl, and creating a sense of place he describes, in general terms, what went wrong and how to fix it. I’ve posted some notes below, but I recommend you take 20 minutes and watch the video for yourself, it’s worth it:

Sense of Place – Your ability to make places that are meaningful and places of quality and character. This depends entirely on your ability to define space with buildings.
The public realm mainly comes in the form of the street in America because we don’t have the 1,000 year old cathedrals and market squares of older cultures.
The culture of civic design – a body of knowledge, methods, skills, and principles that we threw in the garbage after WWII and we can see the result all around us.
The public realm has to inform us not only where we are geographically, but it has to inform us where we are in our culture – where we’ve come from, what kind of people we are, and by doing that it needs to afford us a glimpse to where we’re going.
The places we’ve created over the past 50 years have deprived us of the ability to live in a hopeful present.
To create a place of character and quality you have to be able to define space.
We have about 38,000 places that are not worth caring about in the United States. When we have enough of them, we’re going to have a Nation that’s not worth defending.
The remedy for mutilated urbanism is good urbanism and good buildings, not just flower beds not just cartoons of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, that’s not good enough, we have to do good buildings.
The industrial city was such a trauma that we developed this tremendous aversion for the whole idea of the city, city life, and everything connected with it.
We have to downscale, rescale, and resize virtually everything in this country and we cannot start soon enough.
We’re gonna have to live closer to where we work, we’re gonna have to live closer to each other, we’re gonna have to live closer to where we produce food, we’re gonna have to improve our railroad system.
We have to re-learn how to compose meaningful places, places that are integral and are living organisms.
We need revivified town centers – our cities grew where they are because they occupy all the important sites.
Life in the 20th century is going to be about living locally. Be prepared to be good neighbors, be prepared to find vocations that make you useful to your neighbors and fellow citizens.
Stop referring to yourself as consumers. Consumers are different than citizens, consumers do not have responsibilities to their fellow human beings.

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