The Liturgy of the City Print
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 10 March 2007 09:30
Paul Grenier and Tim Patitsas have written in a intriguing Godspy article: "In America, a good city, like good bread, is considered a luxury whose enjoyment is a necessity only for the virtuous, in other words, for the wealthy. It is not considered necessary for the poor to be allowed to be human."

They are asking why has the New Urbanism failed to create good cities. And their answers are simple:


"The economic value of old buildings," wrote Jacobs, "is irreplaceable at will. It is created by time." What is missing from this picture more than anything else is a liturgical understanding of time. It is missing from most New Urbanist projects because the economics of real estate development in the free market won't allow it.

Because these new town centers rely on expensive new construction, developers are forced to lease their retail space at very high rentstoo high for such humble ventures as the pottery studio or the old produce market to pay."

Casual friendships build over time:

What gets thrown away and rejected? The casual kind of friendships which gradually form between store owners and clients who see each other over the course of years and decades. The emotional warmth that places acquire because others before us have also drank and laughed there."

An unhurried pace made possible by low rents:

At the old site the atmosphere had been relaxed. Now, in the new high-rent building, high-speed and high-volume is the only way for the owner to stay afloat. The pace is frenetic.


"Finally, they destroyed the spirit of the Italian restaurant, where the owner's whole attention was devoted to this particular place, a place where he could give his food (in a certain sense) as a gift to his clients. Vignola's had been a place where a man of small means could do what he loved. Mr. Vignola was not primarily motivated by profit. The spiritual warmth of the experience at his restaurant came from one's recognition that this was the case."

I know that one of the things I really liked about Colorado Springs was that even the very poor had often staggering mountain views. In Seattle, even a glimpse of a mountain or a bit of water meant that the cost of a home jumped $ 50,000 immediately. Here, the mountains are so close and so dominant that even developers can't monopolize them.

Read the whole Godspy piece and be sure and browse the left sidebar which lists interesting related links.