paul kersey, yimbyist – mammoth // building nothing out of something

paul kersey, yimbyist

Dan Hill has (another) excellent post at City of Sound examining what he’s referring to as “emergent urbanism”, or the “knitting together [of] the everyday loose ends in urban fabric” by community organizations and individuals acting “outside of traditional planning processes”.  I’m particularly pleased by (a) the presentation of the example of Renew Newcastle, which, not being Australian, I wasn’t at all familiar with, (b) Dan’s emphasis on “YIMBYism” (the term is taken from a group in Stockholm), or enabling positive citizen participation in the planning process (as an alternative to stereotypical NIMBYism, in which the community has no involvement in the urban planning process until it object vociferously and often destructively — though frequently with good cause — to a proposal which is nearing construction), and (c) the attempt to reconcile the existence of central-planning processes with the potential of emergent urbanisms, which strikes me as quite realistic, given that both will continue to act upon cities in varying measures, regardless of urbanists’ ideological predispositions towards one or the other.

Both (b) and (c) may shed some light on another excellent recent article, “Lethal T-Square” published at Places, which, taken together with a similar Plantizen article from 2008, offers a reading of Charles Bronson’s vigilante-architect from the film “Death Wish” as either crusading proto-NIMBYist par excellence Jane Jacobs or Jacobs’ most famous antagonist and symbolic figurehead for modernist urbanism’s self-destructive relationship with central planning, Robert Moses.  Keith Eggener, author of “Lethal T-Square”, and Nate Berg, author of the earlier Plantizen article, offer up Bronson as either Jacobs (because Bronson is willing to fight for his community) or Moses (because Bronson is willing to break some things in order to fix others), but perhaps it is most useful to realize that, just as Hill suggests that urbanists should continue to pursue both better central planning and better emergent process, both readings may be accurate at once, though there are elements to be both lauded and to be condemned in the fruits of both Jacobs’ and Moses’ labors.

While moderation, whether in reading a film or planning a city, can at times be bland, it can also be realized through the vibrant pairing of extremes: not just vigorous centrally-planned transit infrastructures or motivated communal self-re-organization (or a muddled combination of neither, which might be the most accurate characterization of contemporary American urbanism), but both in tandem.

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