Saturday, April 4, 2009

I have to disagree with Ilana on the first panel and with Matthew’s characterization that “ecology is approached… as a matter of existential praxis.” I felt that the first panel, in fact, tended to reinforce what Kwinter later called the “false dichotomy,” negating much of its value in my opinion and showing just how deep the diametrically opposed Thoreauian conceptions of nature and city run. During the keynote, on the other hand, many of the issues that I hoped would be raised during this conference where, from the role of capital to showing alternatives to the nature/city dualism.

As the sole planner writing about the conference, I have to admit that I was a little concerned about having an architect and a literary critic delivering the keynote at conference that is specifically urban. For someone who studies the city full time, architect’s presentations on urbanism can, at times, seem woefully naïve. Setting aside the (admitted) irony of Rem Koolhaas declaring an end to starcatecture, I was extremely impressed by the nuance and depth of his presentation, as well as the ease of his movement between the architectural and urban scales with clarity.

I especially enjoyed the short look at the California Academy of Sciences building as well as the characterization that we have too often “equated literal greening” with ecological sustainability. I recently saw a project that included significant introduction of northern American foliage to a park in Albuquerque with the goal of “greening” the city. Yes, perhaps the color green will abound, but only at a huge environmental cost to create the necessary ecosystem for it to exist in that climate. This, as Koolhaas said, is the “artificiality to which we’ve become accustomed.”

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