Admit it, our cities are hideous. Our homes may be nice, along with the occasional building and some of the parks. But generally speaking, the roads, buildings and parking lots are horrible. And you know, cities didn’t have to look like this.
The other day I happened to glimpse Parliament Hill from across the river, through glorious autumn trees, with the Peace Tower floating above the trees like a medieval church spire greeting a weary traveller. Only an ugly utilitarian concrete bridge spoiled the view. But get up close and, with a few exceptions, the buildings are bad and the roads are worse. Brutal cement everywhere. Millions of people flock to medieval Italian sites every year. But no one would visit the ruins of modern Ottawa. So why do we put up with it?
I confess that for a long time I didn’t give it much thought. Years ago, Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House left me with an allergic reaction to the aggressively featureless glass-and-steel “Yale Box.” But by and large I simply assumed that what you see in the modern urban landscape is, regrettably, what buildings and roads look like. Continue Reading →
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