...and a bit of brief rambling down allegorical culs-de-sac.
You hear this often, that Dallas has an identity crisis. It's a precept that I not only buy, but have probably helped to sell to some extent. The physical implication is that of an urban frankenstein, a monster loosely pieced together, but nothing quite like an actual human. I guess that is what happens when you try to engineer or fabricate life, particularly without the right DNA. We're not exactly technically proficient enough to engineer a robot with a heart of gold yet like Wall-E.
To mix metaphors, trying to great authentic, real, livable, walkable urbanism in DFW is like trying to run PC apps on Mac platforms. Feel free to reverse those two if that is your preference. Ya know, customize.
The deeper question is WHY does Dallas have an identity crisis. This morning, I was sitting in the Peter Walker lecture at the Nasher Sculpture Center. At these kind of events, something never feels quite right about them. The grip and grin. The glad-handing. I often feel a bit like Nick Carraway at a socialite soiree in West Egg. This particularly time thinking about the local predilection for bringing in national celebrities from the design world.
It should be stated that I like Peter Walker's design work, at least when framed carefully like photography. It lacks either a locational self-awareness or a desire to broach bigger issues (despite occasional claims to the contrary). Here's a spot, it will have a nice little design on it. It is elegant and simple. Highly abstract. It lacks complexity and works well as an object itself just like the buildings he lamented "often getting plunked" into spaces. In a way, a perfect mirror for his lecture delivery. He wasn't talking down to people, but speaking in lay terms. It wasn't overly academic, but I'm also not sure that the complexity of urbanism resides in him. He does his job, he does it well.
But when it comes to bigger, systemic issues of what makes Dallas "green," or sustainable, or livable, or resilient, these kind of out-of-town experts invariably resort to placation and pandering. "You're Dallas. You're the bees knees." What was billed as "Designing Green Dallas," or whatever, was predictably little more than green smoke.