March 12, 2020


Not unsurprisingly, Le Corbusier’s Athens Charter, its legendary 1933 manifesto, “reduced the experience of the city to functional efficiency” and other high modern planning schemes come in for much-warranted obloquy. But Buras takes a dim-to-measured view of developments both before and after the modern planning movement that has done much harm to cityscapes.

He dates one problem to the Romantic era, and to single-minded efforts to achieve the Burkean sublime and dispense with beauty. He faults the examples of 18th century European architects (such as Boulee, Piranesi, and Ledoux) and subsequent examples of overscaled and domineering architecture following it.

Even sounder schemes often were a bit askew to his mind. Twentieth-century Garden City plans and their revivalism in New Urbanism have many very good elements but he argues that most are establishing better-than-average suburbs, not genuinely flexible spaces for living. Their arrangements can  hover awkwardly between suburban and urban scales to his mind, and they are frequently forbidden through zoning to develop in one or the other direction. He certainly believes that planning has become better in recent decades, and withdrawn from some excesses of automobility, but it is often concerned with addressing individual symptoms.


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