Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Get in Shape? Round is a Shape.

I must post this. It is FortWorthology's pic. My picture is of him taking the picture which has since made the rounds of urbanists and bike/pedestrian advocates around the country. New York, Copenhagen, Vancouver, and some identified locale in Sweden are all having a good laugh at our expense. We should be used to it by now, since the starchitects we commission for the various objects around the city are still having a good laugh. Likely while rolling around in a bed of cash.

I do appreciate the reply Kevin received on one of his tweets from Philip Winn who added to Churchill's famous quotation: " it any wonder what shape we're in?"

Kevin and I stumbled upon this after the Bright Lights, Great City? panel where I was only able to down one beer while on the mic. I needed more. So I told Kevin and the two female accompani-... accompani-... accompany us about this little oasis of a place called St. Ann's Court. Not the building, but the bar/restaurant, which is a spectacular little gem of a restoration.

I'm pretty sure I saw the quote lining a parking garage first, which is immaterial. But I led the way since I knew where I was going. What did matter is that Kevin was ambling lost, afraid he'd be struck by a car on the mindless spaghetti of streets entangling the Lower McKinney area.

I think I might have ghasped, "No Effing Way!" Or something along these lines of disbelief. Immediately, both of our sweatshop produced iPhones were produced from our own pockets and focusing on this wall.

For those that don't know, the area I'm referring to (often shortened to LoMac) is one of the densest parts of DFW, maybe even Texas. At least in terms of collection of high-end condo high-rises. The actual population density is quite low considering. And of course it is. The area is dreadful. All "density" and zero urbanity. If I had any money tied up in the area I'd either be 1) getting it out as fast as possible or 2) pushing for a dramatic rethinking of the entire street network in the area.

The lack of urbanity is two-fold. Bad streets. Bad buildings. The bad buildings are a defensive and rational response to the bad streets producing these vertical cul-de-sacs where your only engagement with the street is when passing Mr. Churchill's quotation pulling into your parking garage. Once again, what everybody else seems to get except for Dallas, is that the fixation on objects matters little rather than the interconnections and interrelationships between things. Actually, it matters a lot for all the wrong reasons.

And really, that was my basic premise during the panel. The conversation has to be far deeper and more complex than the things we touch and feel. We're supply-siding our city and we don't seem to understand how that's wrong. How that produces nothing approaching the authenticity we yearn for. And we make excuses, "Dallas is glittery," "Dallas is built for the car," etc. If we just add a London Eye, London will grow out of it. Or a High Line and NYC will grow out of it. Or a Calatrava and highway burial and Boston will grow out of it.

But we have the equation backwards. It was the city, the invisible nature of it, the interconnections, that drives demand. That produces density via desirability and opportunity. This is where authenticity derives. And since we're so sorely lacking that Dallas has no identity...yet. We don't know where it will lead, but it is fundamental to city building. And until then, the statements to the contrary about Dallas's perceived identity (it sparkles!) are completely null and void.

Once over beers and still flabbergasted, we asked "would it be funnier if this was unintentional and completely self-aware or snuck in by an embittered designer with a good taste in irony?" Neither of us has quite answered that question yet. What do you think?