Saturday, April 4, 2009

good quotes from the day

Here are two quotes from the day's proceedings, entirely out of context and intended to perhaps provoke and certainly amuse:

'Sustainable urbanism should not mean green cities for wealthy white people'
Lizabeth Cohen

'Good cities are like French cheeses. The worse they smell the better they are.'
Homi Bhabha

I thought it was interesting how in the opening panel of this weekend's conference the terms sustainable, green and ecology were used so interchangeably. Different panelists latched on to different terms for their own purposes, and in this smashingly interdisciplinary panel there were a multitude of agendas and positions. Are these terms identical in meaning? If not, what is the difference between them? Is one more inclusive than another? And is this disparate conversation useful for defining a clear agenda for a new sort of urbanism? Or is it impossible to have a single agenda for something as abstractly defined as ecological urbanism?

As for the French cheese comment, it certainly elicits visceral reaction, though it strikes me as a rather romantic notion of the city. Smelly cities may be more complex and implicitly more exciting, than the sterile or 'dead' city (Stanford Kwinter just killed New York tonight, by the way), but isn't this just the sort of excitement that lends itself to a touristic voyeurism and encourages a view of the city as place exclusively of voyeurism and vice? Maybe New York was more 'alive' in the 70s than it is today, and we can have a nostalgia about that time, with some very good reason, but I must say that it the quality of life can be much higher in a city with a more refreshing and neutral smell. Personally, my parents (longstanding NYC residents) are much happier that the neighborhood whorehouse has been converted to condos and that the subways are safe at all hours. Maybe the city is more sterile, but we shouldn't forget that sterility too has its charms.

All said, I must admit that I found the first panel far more exciting than the keynote. The diversity of viewpoints and the dialogue between them was far more interesting to me than the rhetoric that followed.

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