He says stuff like this:
“It’s not OK to put up buildings that are unworthy of our affection.”
“People who are capable of generating hope are people who know the difference between wishing for stuff and making stuff happen.”
Hear both quotes in their original context here:
“Life in the mid-21st century is going to be about living locally. Be prepared to be good neighbors. Be prepared to find vocation that make you useful to your neighbors and your fellow citizens.”
“Please, please stop referring to yourselves as consumers. Consumers are different than citizens. Consumers do not have obligations, responsibilities, and duties to their fellow human beings.”
Original presentation here (language warning: Kunstler drops the f-bomb a couple times in this video):
A college trip to Spain was the first time I recognized that something was seriously wrong with the majority of our buildings in the United States. Strolling the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla, I was overwhelmed by the archictecture of European cities. In particular, their beautiful and frequently used public spaces, like the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, intrigued me. Since that trip fifteen years ago I’ve been keenly interested in what it is that makes a place desireable, a place where people want to be–to shop, eat, play, and interact.
James Howard Kunstler (language warning) is one of the people who has helped me figure out why I thought the places I visited in Spain were so beautiful while American cities and towns seemed comparably ugly. One of those reasons is that much of our built environment has been designed around the car instead of around people. Our primary design concern is the ease with which we can get around in our cars (not to mention the ease with which we can access loads of inexpensive and ugly plastic goods). The “Dollar General” store that just opened in Madison, for instance, is nothing but a cheap, wasteful building. It’s downright depressing to look at and contributes nothing beautiful or uplifting to our public space. It sure has plenty of parking, though, thank goodness. This, unfortunately, is the norm in middle America.
Kunstler does a great job of identifying the visual elements that make for both bad and good building architecture and public space design. Fortunately, we have the New Urbanism movement (great sites here and here) to counteract the worst of our modern building tendencies. And we have Kunstler’s caustic wit to call our attention to the issues.