Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Battle Authentic?

"These forces of redevelopment have smoothed the uneven layers of grit and glamour, swept away traces of contentious history, cast doubt on the idea that poor people have a right to live and work here too--all that had made the city authentic."

Sharon Zukin, Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places

I am naturally disposed to this argument about the passing authenticity of cities and its relation to small shop, mixed use, immigrant neighborhoods. But then I catch myself: Whose "authentic" am I talking about? What is authentic anyway? But, yes, new development homogenizes.

Authentic is one of those words like "innovative" that we should probably ban from our day-to-day vocabulary. In the name of urban dynamism, we suddenly get stuck on one version of the city. And the passing of urban authenticity feels a lot like our perennial "death of community" stories about the good old days.

And are poor people the only attribute that made cities authentic? What about urban economies? Trains? Mega infrastructure? Tall buildings? Urban Design?

It would be a worthwhile endeavor to search metro areas for signs of spontaineity, mixed use, people defying design, immigrant enclaves, market making. I suspect we would need to look and listen in new ways. That said, I still miss the old stuff that was already on its way out when I got to know it.

1 comment:

Robot Roomba 560 said...

So now it's many months later, and I have to say, I am quite pleased with the post. Cool. Thank you.

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