Home from Nowhere

Kunstler, James Howard

CITIES FIT FOR PEOPLE Home from Nowhere Remaking Our Everyday World for the Twenty-First Century Jarnes Howard Kunstler Sonorr t, S,1;ru..frr, 7_'-1..318lrlr. Christopher Thomas f you find...

...Perhaps, for all its problems, Manhattan, from which Kunstler hails, best illustrates a city scaled to walkers and their eyes (if not their ears...
...Figures, once their traits entered the tradition, became a standard from which there was little deviation: the beard of Saint Nicholas was always long and the skin tone of John Chrysostom always reflected a certain pallor...
...Geography is a historic account of how Americans arrived there, in the process abandoning true, locally specific cities and leaving them wastelands of decay, crime, and de facto racial segregation...
...Sa9.5U...
...The book is divided into three parts...
...This is not a genteel, nostalgic plea for a return to elm-arched life in the small town, but a prophetic call to "turn and be saved...
...Anyone who has more than a passing interest in icons (like myself) will find Maguire s book extremely helpful...
...Thelate Ernst Benr-once wrote that to understand icons is to under stand Orthodoxy...
...Despite this seemingly alien style, many people find a luminousbeau ty in these figures which are so central to the religious experience of the Chris tian East...
...am 1881 MBwsutr.s, Wl 53201-1881 141:1 288-7170 C MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY provides a decoding of the iconographical tradition that helps us gain a more perceptive eye when we look at what one scholar has called this "theology in color...
...Downtown (or, as locals call it, "downcity") Providence, Rhode Island, was a typical rotting Northeastern urban core until some progressives, with DPZ's help, re-envisioned it as a SoHo for the young artistic set...
...He reserves most anxiety and vilification for I Commonweal 23 September 26, 1997 South Florida, where immigration of different sorts from north and south threatens ecological Armageddon...
...Ample notes, a bibliography, and an index make it all the Corernwnwcal 24 srtrteinber26, 1997...
...Some cities show complete ignorance of effective urban typologies: Cleveland's public housing authority built suburban ranchhouses in the ghetto, and a conservation group in Kunstler's own Saratoga Springs, New York, could think of nothing better to do with a vacant site downtown than turn it into a park-opposite the town's premier existing park, designed by Olmsted...
...Committed to scholarship and dialogue within American Catholic theology, Marquete offers a diverse faculty nationally recognized in theological research...
...establishing the walkable neighborhood as the module of the city...
...In four well-written chapters (enhanced by 163 halftone illustrations) Maguire shows how the icon painter uses a visual language to distinguish "types" of, say, saints according to their spiritual task: ascetics are thin and angular to represent their desire for the nearly immaterial existence of the contemplative life (the so-called "angelic life") while soldier-saints are moreanimated and robust...
...and so perpetually regenerates its streets...
...in Religious Studies Areas of Study Biblical Theology Historical Theology Systematic Theology Theological Ethics Theology and Society Financial Assistance Tuition Scholarships Teaching/ Research Assistantships for ie~farmotion writs or ooh Dsparwnsn1 ci Taoiogy cooahrn !loci, 100 P.O...
...A maze of overlapping bureaucracies strangled the same architects' attempt to model a TND on Cape Cod, where, if anywhere, compactness would be a virtue...
...The Icons of Their Bodies: Saints and Their Images in Byzantium by Henry- Maguire Princeton Urnzvr.xlu Prt...
...With the space between cities more and more sprawled out, today the most promising "frontiers" for commercial and residential "pioneers" just may be the wastelands near the hearts of old cities...
...Kunstler then articulates the principles of the New Urbanism: replacing zoning (imported from Germany in the early twentieth century), which isolates homes from stores and parks and public buildings and compels us to use the car for the simplest trip, with "civic art," or practices deeply rooted in history and psychology...
...THEOLOGY GRA1)1,.k-F1: S'[1,,t)CATHOLIC JESUIT ECUMENICAL For more than 40 years, Marquette University has provided a tradition of excellence in graduate theology for lay men and women, clergy and religious...
...If traditional principles of town planning are not returned to, he argues, the continent and its inhabitants are in peril...
...A chapter on agriculture seems unexpected, but the farmer to whom we are introduced, Steve Gilman, is so engaging and Kunstter's argument about the peril into which agribusiness and imprudent urbanization have thrown farming so important, that we indulge him this wander...
...So the movement's proponents want to demonstrate its potential to give life to actual, functioning communities...
...This is not a hook introducing Byzantine art...
...The rest of the book gives flesh to these principles by discussing places where they have or have not been applied-for weal or woe...
...drawing up, preferably in community exercises called "charettes," architectural codes using language that all can understand governing basics such as sizes of houses and lots, depths of setback, and forms of roofs and porches...
...I see why...
...Nowhere" is Kunstler's code word for the anonymous, formless sprawl of residential and commercial suburbia, lacking all semblance of public life and the same from sea to sea...
...The goal is dynamic-to mix various types of housing with commercial and public activity...
...Programs M. A. i n Theology PhD...
...on the other hand, enterprising developers in Columbus and Memphis took vacant urban sites and created dynamic, mixed-use neighborhoods...
...The wide-eyed Christsof Byzantine mosaics, for instance, may well represent Christ's "eve of justice," which was thought a powerful antidote to ancient envy transmitted by the "evil eye...
...Home from Nowhere has ethical implications that ought to engage readers...
...Related to architectural postmodernism, the New Urbanism tries to regenerate derelict sites in cities and build new, "greenfields" developments outside them that are more varied and humane than hermetic postwar tract-suburbs...
...22 y,f, This desire to paint the lives of the saints according to their spiritual duties (Maguire is excellent in correlating art with the written sources of Byzantine hagiography) was so engrained in the Byzantine tradition that when a fifteenthcenturv Greek visited Florence and went into a Latin church, he could not make heads or tails of the art because his eve was so otherwise trained...
...Not only are Kunstler's books well-writtenclear, funny, full of irreverent conviction-but they forge a vital link between aesthetics and ethics...
...Now, architectural empathy is a controverted idea in the history of aesthetics, and I do not find Kunstler's appeals to verticals, regulating lines, and the Golden Section totally convincingespecially since the Modernist architects he condemns, especially Le Corbusier, worshiped at their altar...
...In a transitional chapter that is perhaps the most debatable in the book, he argues that what the centrifugal "sprawlscape" most lacks is a quality he calls "charm"-empathetic response to universal bodily and spiritual desires...
...it is rather a book for those who have been introduced to such art and who wish to get deeper into its aesthetic and theology...
...RELIGION BOOKNOTES Lawrence So Cunningham vzantine icons tend to be muse many viewers...
...Maguire's volume is filled with useful observations that have helped me understand Byzantine art in a new way...
...Christopher Thomas f you find America's decrepit downtowns and sprawling automobile suburbs disturbing, read this book...
...Depictions of the Virgin tend to be more "fleshly"and detailed than thloseof Christ since the former is the guarantor of the Incarnation while the latter subject must conform to the binary condition of divinity/humanity...
...To the Western eye they seem stv Iistically to look very much alike: hieratic, static, stiff figuresagainst gold backgrounds with very little nat ural context...
...determining a hierarchy of streets, from the grand boulevard to the service alley...
...Seaside, the neotraditional town on the Florida Panhandle developed in the eighties by architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) of Miami, standard-bearers for the New Urbanism, has been an aesthetic and residential success but has not so far attracted vigorous commercial life...
...Kunstler and others have created the Congress for the New Urbanism-which I joined immediately on finishing the book-and call the experiments they sponsor by various names: civic art (echoing the City Beautiful movement of 1900), Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), or Transit Oriented Development (TOD...
...If I am less sanguine than Kunstler about the ability and determination of private initiative and enterprise, ungoaded, to bring us back from the brink, I read the book as an appeal for a new consciousness of cities and the environments they anchor...
...The opening section relates Americans' historical mistrust of the city, the elevation of the private home to the status of a "totem object"-and corresponding denigration of public life-and our insane affair with the automobile, which has been the ruination of many cities...
...He B Christopher Thomas teaches in the Departnzeiit o f Art History at the University of Victoria in British Columbia...
...But discouraging this "new" approach, Kunstler argues, is the present system of taxing property, which promotes speculation in land and the decay of older buildings...
...A colleague of mine calls Kunstler's The Geography of Nowhere (Simon & Schuster, 1994), the most important book she has read in twenty years...
...Their physical collapse is more than a symptom of underlying economic and social problems, Kunstler argues, but to some degree a cause...
...Though traditionalist and hierarchical-so, some claim, un-American-the New Urbanism is arguably less restrictive than today's impenetrable zoning codes...
...Home tells a more hopeful story of how, in a few cases, architects and developers have made some limited progress toward reversing the tragic decline...

Vol. 124 • September 1997 • No. 16


 
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