James Kunstler: How bad architecture wrecked cities

100 thoughts on “James Kunstler: How bad architecture wrecked cities

  1. Modern architecture is not the problem per se, it's more about how buildings are designed for the environment that they're situated in. In London, to take one example, there are many new buildings – but they must fit into restricted space between lots of older buildings. This leads to interesting and intuitive design choices that mostly work really well and add to the overall texture of the city. Travelling through the vast sprawl cities of the American West and South-West I was struck by how temporary and utilitarian most of the architecture is. Many cities lack 'texture' at all. They are just stretches of grided multi-lane roads with blocky buildings which themselves are surrounded by expanses of car parking lots. Sadly this was not always the case, but was mostly down to the automobile revolution that thundered through urban America in the 50's. New York City and San Francisco are exceptions to the general rule. Thank God for Jane Jacobs.

    Also, this guy is brilliant. Funny but true.

  2. I have been struggling for years to articulate everything I despise about modern suburbia and this talk nails it all perfectly. So glad I found this.

  3. Remember when TED was good? Well here is your reminder.

    TED if you're reading this. You're fucking garbage now. Die.

  4. Suburbia exists because it's cheap, comfortable, and safe. In the past, most people lived on farms and hated it FAR worse than they hate suburbia. I don't believe we can all have some amazing city life, civilization depends on inequality, whether it's between cities and suburbs, or between the US and the third world. It's a fantasy to think we can all live in beautiful places.

  5. The same time the propaganda machine settled down on the war effort, it took it's work to the entire American population (and Europe,) in television & films, in the "programming" of children in public schools, to art & architecture deeming aesthetics to be wholly subjective. After all, Western cultural ideas and national pride lead to the wars, right? What better to way to forge "peace" than to destroy the ideas that made a nation worth defending in the first place? Dehumanizing and demoralizing. Zoning laws have made integrated communities near impossible.

    I cannot understand how people choose houses that look SO out of place (14:20,) as if they just dropped from outer-space!

  6. I think I'll just stick to living 30 miles from the festering cesspits that are cities but uhhhhhhhh best of luck making them prettier them I guess.

  7. I think that his analysis it's very poor and superficial, his argument "it's not enough for Americans“ is lame.

  8. I believe this guy never were in Bulgaria. There are a lots of things bulgarians would be ashamed of in america, like the undemocratic system and the overexpensive healthcare. Bulgaria do a lot better than the US.

  9. Sadly, here in nyc I've been hearing this mantra, this philosophy for 50 years (usually from old school neighborhood activists) and it has been continually ignored. NYC continues to be a land of a growing ever increasing hideous glass and steel boxes. For the rich.

  10. So true..Modern architecture is part of the ruination of Western culture. White westerners have become ashamed of the legacy of their ancestors and seek to destroy or rewrite it. Many of us in Europe are either unaware or oblivious of the beauty that our forebears built..It is a disgrace. We should embrace our history, our cultures and be proud of them, not destroy or deny them.

  11. I left a city that had great planning. It's called Vancouver. I studied architecture there.
    They believe in your game. It cost them ownership of their city, as the cost of such a game is borne by someone, and billions of Asian money has paid for it. It now has by far the most expensive housing in North America, with the highest density of towers, largely underused.
    To provide the Delight that goes with the Firmitas is a costly extra. I'd rather own my own poverty than get owned by my highbrow tastes. Isn't that what America was about? Isn't that worth fighting for?
    After all, the cites you showed as examples were built on the underpaid labor of serf classes. Fascism loves classical architecture.

  12. "Please please stop referring to yourselves as consumers. Consumers are different then citizens. Consumers do not have obligations, responsibilities and duties to their fellow human beings.

    And as long as you're using that word, consumer, in the public discussion you will be degrading the quality of the discussion we're having and we're going to continue being clueless going into this very difficult future that we face." James Howard Kunstler

  13. This guy is still promoting and supporting the Agenda 21 confiscation of single family homes and automobiles. He only wants it to look better. You will still be stacked and packed.

  14. New Zealand is the same. We built our country so spread out that living without a car is almost impossible. Every citizen of Nz expects to own a 3-4 bedroom house with a quarter acre section, apartment living is almost non existent for families in NZ, even in the cities. It makes us so isolated and unable to confidently communicate. Socialising is normally an event which you have to travel for instead of a regular occurrence, which means everyone is too awkward to hang out sober, so we binge drink then drive home on dodgy country roads! We also have a huge problem with depression and suicide in NZ which is linked I think with our architecture

  15. Not sure where he's going with the whole idea that our railroads would embarrass the Bulgarians unless he's referencing Amtrak……

  16. I lover this guy's talks and writing, and agree with him on almost everything.  One major point of disagreement:  we are not likely to see the end of cheap oil in our lifetime; there is just too much of it.  But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take the advice about living locally and restoring our public realm.  In fact, the cheap energy may just provide the extra needed capital to repair the brutalism and awful development of the last 70 years.

  17. But that 1960s particle board clad house is white, and has an eagle over the door, so that makes it "early American"… So patriotic I get teary eyed— I guess.

  18. 15:05 I work for the french justice departement and i've genuanly seen prisons that's look better and more appealing than this school… God is there an execution range somewhere inside this? Is that based on a former Soviet political jail?

  19. My house was built last year and is on a corner. The side facing the side street has zero windows. The other side has two windows, both facing the outside wall of a house.

  20. Haven't gotten to the end yet, but as much as I agree it's important to remember that we in the US have our greatest idea: National Parks. Our home is in disarray, but our front yard is fucking great.

  21. The topic is so important, but why does he bring up that "American soldiers spilling their blood in Iraqi sand" metaphor? The question everyone should be asking themselves is not what was their last thought of home but rather how come they ended up in a foreign country half a world away from home spilling their blood in the sand? I mean… and the audience applauded that as if some eloquent politician was giving a prep talk. Is that a good argument for challenging modern architecture? It's just ridiculous. I'm not going to watch the rest of it; I agree that modern, corporate architecture sucks, but this is not the way to approach it…

  22. This video will sadly be relevant for longer than it should have to be. But luckily squares and public spaces are slowly, slowly, creeping into cities.

  23. Don't worry, Europe is catching up with the abomination. Let's see what they do now with the new spire of Notre-Dame.

  24. I am actually impressed that the American railway is worse than the Bulgarian one. I mean, I am Bulgarian and nobody wants to use the railways here.

  25. Git wit da program old man… People want to liv n madern cribs, pimped out rat houses; Dog… not anc'nt fossills!!!!!!

  26. This guy sounded kinda good at first, then he started with the "public good" bullshit, so I knew he was a leftist, then he went off the deep end predicting the end of the fossil fuel economy (this was when gas was reaching $4.00 a gallon in the US).

    He got it very wrong, because, typically of leftists, he misunderestimated human beings.

  27. This guy is right beyond doubt.
    My parents were suffering from a lot of mental stress and anxiety living in big cities surrounded by concrete blocks and tall builds full of "consumers" and "workers". Moved with them to a small town where every neighbor knows each other and the architecture is better, they are now more healthy than ever.

  28. This country has become more impermeable year by year. The vast majority of buildings and stores are just plain unappealing & unfriendly to the point of having security guards in many of them. That issue speaks directly to the state of this "society" (I use that word loosely).

  29. Ugly souls building what's in their hearts. Weither you want to believe it or not the spiritual aspect of demonic influence is taking over. Mc Donalds have redone their buldings. BLACK BOX with deep red, brown and tan interiors. So unwelcoming you might as well eat in a warehouse!

  30. Twelve years later and there's as much oil as ever, we're finding it haster than we can use it, partly thanks to fracking.

  31. 5 minutes into this and I’m already depressed. If you don’t like America, move to Europe or Canada!

  32. Terrorists could do the world and its peoples a great boon if they would blow up these eyesores.
    (Bumping off a few modern architects and blowing schools of architecture would also be helpful.)

  33. I mean, he has a point. I agree with a lot of what he’s saying. I just wish he didn’t swear so much.

  34. Been saying this for yrs. had a business purchase a lovely red brick art deco clear lead-light windowed w/ curved veranda across the rd. immediately he bagged the building, painting it grey. Then enclosing the veranda, destroyed the lovely entrance changing the entry to the French doors at the end of the building. Its completely destroyed. He did the nature thing, which is a decent native garden & pond, but it doesn't improve the disaster that was about the prettiest house in the st. Another Dr bought some space which had just a Pizza Hut on it. But he's just built a contrete box, & painted part of the frontage red. The church made a block of chicken coops, all squeezed together to get as many squat flats in together. Greed. They did the crap spot if nature band aid out front. You think the church would at least see the essential need to create a harmonious public civic place. Hang on – what am I saying. As if the church would act responsibly. They're too busy helping jihad & The Islamic State Theocracy establish its self proclaimed enemy govt establish itself as if Islamic State Theocracy is a religion! What a joke. Place is going to be another Bedouin Supremacist slum. Doomed.

  35. Lady Bird Johnson hated what Kunstler calls the automobile slum as well. In most places I think what he calls the automobile slum a lot of people called the "Miracle Mile" that exists all around the edges of every town in the San Francisco Bay Area, where all the towns "miracle miles" actually grew together, mestastisizing nto a whole cancerous growth. When I was a kid I thought (based on what the public schools in California taught) that the entire USA was solidly one big SF Peninsula straight across the country, except for places like Yosemite /GrandCanyonWhat a shock to find out that actually the SF Peninsula is an anomaly. There was no place else like it anywhere until I got to Atlanta, GA (I was on a thru bus to Atlanta, 3 days of non-stop driving except for meal breaks and changes of drivers). What a total surprise for a teenager indoctrinated in California's public schools.

  36. I don't know, he's lost his mind at 15:50. I guess he must live in San Francisco. I thought he was making great sense until he started talking like an insane Boomer. Oh well, he is what he is. Or was. (I guess he's in Antifa now)

  37. A great, inspiring talk that should wake everyone up to the reality that America has become in the last 100 years.
    Before the age of the automobile, American towns and cities were built densely and to the scale of the pedestrian. Cars have made it possible for humans to live in low density suburban sprawl, which is ecologically unsustainable and isolating to humans. We accept our habitats because it’s what we know and what we are use to. We don’t know a better way of living unless one is presented to us.

  38. When people whine about Climate Change and this politician or that, with no desire to take any action, I give them my copy of the book "Salt" and a link to this Ted Talk. Just like South Park, no one wants to give up Soy Sauce and Red Dead Redemption 2 (a link to this episode should be the third thing I hand out). We keep building and buying our unhappiness.

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