(sub)Urban planning and its discontents

“It was a very bad day in the Venturi / Scott Brown office in Philadelphia when I showed up, representing The New York Times Sunday Magazine (for whom I was also cooking up an article along these lines). Not bad because of me, necessarily, but because a bunch of ‘suits’ from the Walt Disney Corporation had dropped in earlier that morning unannounced ( ! ) — one of the little tricks that Disney liked to pull on its subcontractors. Some months earlier, Venturi and Scott Brown’s office had been hired to design the grand monumental entrance boulevard to Euro-Disney, and now the Seven Dwarfs in neckties were in the office all of a sudden to see how the work was coming. Oy vey.

“So it was hardly me that they were disturbed about, really, but I had complicated matters by showing up, and I suppose they felt they had to take a writer from the NY Times Magazine seriously because they liked getting into its pages — being very shrewd self-publicists. The upshot was that Venturi and Scott Brown were running split shifts between me in a conference room downstairs, and the Seven Dwarfs up on the production floor of the 80-person architectural office. And I was kind of maundering through a laundry list of questions that I’d cobbled together to get their opinion on how come America was so, well, so fucking ugly, to put it as unceremoniously as possible. Venturi, a teddy-bear of a man, would kind of blink at me and try to explain that architecture was no longer about heroic, self-aggrandizing monuments but about the tastes and values of the masses…and then he’d roll his eyes and scoot out of the room and go try to mollify the Seven Dwarfs.* Denise Scott Brown would then come in and attempt to entertain my pain-in-the-ass questions, but her irritation mounted visibly as the minutes ticked by, and finally she exploded at me, hollering, ‘If this country isn’t tidy enough for you, move to Switzerland!'”
Compost Nation, James Howard Kunstler, April 30, 2007

Isn’t that just the sort of thing an émigré would say to a native son? Heh heh heh, I guess workin’ for Disney** has addled the Denise Scott-Brown brain somewhat. I read a few of Venturi’s books and was never really convinced. We should like creepy architecture because there’s a lot of it? Huh. That’s like saying we should like crime, poverty, and disease for the same reason. Our civic and public spaces should be like amusements parks because amusements parks are the only places we can be happy this fucked-up world and distracted from even thinking about building a better world. Huh. Happy slave architecture.*** Thanks, guys, thanks a lot.

I mean, shouldn’t heroic, noble, not to mention beautiful architecture inspire us to be those things? Whereas Disney-fied architecture just inspires us to be passive spectators. Yes, I know there’s more to the looming slaveocracy than cityscape, but it’s a big subject and I can only blog so much at a time, y’know.

Here’s the scoop on old Denise at Wikipedia and some fansite. Man, the Venturi Scott Brown and Associates Architecture website is ugly. Oh… but that’s how it should be… I guess… or something.

*Here in Los Angeles we are gifted with a frieze of the Seven Dwarfs holding up the roof of Disney HQ in lower Burbank. How do I know this? It’s facing the 134 freeway and is big enough to very clearly see each and every dwarf. Top that, Venturi Scott Brown and Associates Architecture, or rather, for the good of humanity, don’t.

**You take Disney’s money, they own you for that long. I think they even write it into the contracts. So get with it, VSBA, you workin’ for Big Rodent now.

***Maybe Architectures of Control?

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