One day people are going to look back at Salemtown and bits of Germantown and say "this is where up-and-coming 30-something Nashvillians disembarked from the declining suburbs in the early 21st-century, and found a neighborhood that was perfect for conducting 'urban living' amateur design experiments upon. It had empty lots, a number of ugly houses worth tearing down, an uneducated and unmobilized minority population, and--most importantly--a large cast of beautiful historic properties and delightfully scaled streets that would make a marvelous setting for an amateur repertoire production of Sex in the City. They seemed to think that the 'creative act' was virtuous in and of itself, and gave no pause to consider what exactly it was that they were creating, and what they were choosing to destroy in the process. They were, in short, dishonest about the fact that one act of creation bears with it, by logical necessity, and infinite number of destructions. Using national design magazines and other pop-culture output for 'inspiration,' they cooked up little follies of so-called 'progressive,' hideously composed architecture in the effort to flesh out their abstract, self-imposed 'urbanity,' and they destroyed the existing sense of decorum and real place that had existed in these neighborhoods, in varying states of health, for the previous 130 years. As usual, black people were the first and the hardest hit. As usual, 'progressive' white people made a mess of things with their little design experiments and then leveraged their economic superiority to go elsewhere"....
Germantown and Salemtown have magnificent design traditions that are literally being destroyed. When you destroy a tradition, it is always possible to bring it back again, even if it is in a state altered by time and memory--ironically, however, the "Moderns" who are conducting their trial-and-error designs on these neighborhoods are also exactly the same people who argue that revivals of traditional architecture are neither honest nor practically possible.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The only thing that I would add to New Towner's Charrette comment is that the design amateurs in S-town promote the degradation of the community before they conduct their experiments: