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NDE are the national educational radio network presents special of the week from Yale University from its series called Yale reports. The city is alive in such places as New York Boston Denver Chicago San Francisco Los Angeles and Atlanta. But is it well. Are the forces that molded the economic the technological and above all the human molding it for the better. Can today's cities some centuries old survive the onslaught of the automobile with the attendant problems of pollution and congestion. These questions are examined today by Vincent Scully Colonel John Trumbull professor of the history of art and John Meyer professor of economics NSA Gewirtz producer of Yale reports moderates the discussion. Mrs Girdwood. Mr. Scully I think we all have our idea of what an ideal city would be like space places to walk a city that's not clogged
by automobiles and so on a city that has a center to it enough green space. Is there any way we can ever achieve an ideal setting the one you described sounds like when you have to divide it get. All of what you need is a harbor and then it's complete on this earth Oh I know what you mean we do have these these ideal dream places but I'm a little tired of the concept of the ideal city as we've had it and in modern city planning and urban thinking in the last 60 years you know the ideal city dreams of the 20s which the most famous and notorious is crazy is great the rowdier scheme was a marvelous image of the world of the great skyscraper towers standing in parks with no more streets and all that kind of thing and everything served by automobiles and all that but the way it's worked out in practice is you know you kind of wonder if it was really so ideal after all so at the moment I'm I'm a little tired of the concept of the ideal I'd rather see a striving to grow from from our awareness of the
complexity. That the way people live try to learn a little more about that and see if we can derive from mostly empirical experiences of multiplex. But reality forms more more flexible and more various and more attuned to what people actually do want to be what is the factors that go into playing a city then taking taking the city from the beginning. There are people of course who live in it. There's the economic factors. What kind of economic factors. Mr. Maher I like cities. I suspect there are several do but in Economist terms I suppose the two most important economic factors are likely to be the composition and character of the basic industries that provide a livelihood. Or a so-called economic base for the city. And the tastes and backgrounds of the people who populate that
city. For example I've always been struck by the fact that loss Angeles is not just a creature of the automobiles it's often described as being. I would point out that much of what condition Los Angeles really has to do with the character of the industries that develop the city that provided its base. Initially the city developed. Like many other cities around the rail terminal point and transshipment of the agricultural goods at terminal point led to of quite conventional city center development close to the railroad yards. But that period didn't last long in Los Angeles. It was followed by growth based upon petroleum. The movie industry is one of the striking features of both these industries from the car economic standpoint is that they have very specialized and peculiar transport requirements. The petroleum industry really
uses the pipeline or a share of the cinema industry moving pictures as a characteristic so requiring almost no more important transport input or output you then in turn you had subsequent development of the airframe aerospace and electronics industries. And again these industries had very few transport requirements for getting materials in or getting the final product out of the airframe industry in the aerospace industry to a somewhat lesser extent had had like the movie industry a very considerable need for space to perform their production so they too fanned out to the outskirts of the city mainly the San Fernando Valley into Orange County for the tour and those were the outskirts the time these industries developed. And this of course is industrial development a strong Pearl towards decentralization on the city and on the city's structure. You speak about Los Angeles developing this way because of petroleum
and film industry. But it seems to be a pattern in aerospace annoyingly Haris So you seem to like Eritrea. But this seems to be a pattern also in eastern cities in Midwestern cities with shopping centers now taking up the outskirts space. New industries coming in and going out of town because they don't depend on the rail industry then something else happens if I could break in because I think that's a fascinating description of the way that happens. But I did see and I agree that I see what you mean that it isn't the automobile that creates it. Not on the bottom of people certainly contribute right now. But but then once it is formed it is in fact the automobile that becomes the major cultural symbol. It's the thing that all the kids get excited about. It's the thing that that makes the shape of the place. You know we form our environment through all kinds of interactions with each other and choices and so on but then when it's there it starts to form us. And
there is a thing that works back the feedback from this whole system does seem to be a culture which I think Tom Wolfe has described very well or begun to describe very well which is which. This is an automobile culture in which all these things he did grow up so economic factors do begin to take on symbolic characteristics so that so that now you know architects are fascinated with the structure they see in the strip but something that has a real challenge to it that has a kind of life in it. In other words there is this back and forth place between what we make and then the environment forming us and beginning to create symbolic configurations of reality that are that don't have much to do with the original economic impetus that may have brought it about. Yes and I would also point out however that having observed this one can leap to the common contrary conclusion that if the automobile had not occurred to remove one part of this whole configuration that you would immediately go back to the status quo ante was that the point I would make is that the city of today being shaped by a multiplicity of economic forces
the internal combustion engine in the form of the truck and the automobile being one of the primary ones. And incidentally I would probably be of the view the truck form of it is at least as important as the automobile for sure. On various kinds of revolutions in manufacturing technology which has tended to make de-centralized locations with more land and less transportation access increasingly desirable as locations for such activities computerization of certain kinds of activities bookkeeping in the insurance and public utilities industries which make a central city location to collect a large clerical for Seles necessary here. Many many other things all of these are part of this general set of forces economic technological human the feedback quite clearly as you suggest upon human patterns and condition the said. But I would the thing I'd stress again is we should never assume that if we remove one element of
this word abolish the computer abolish the automobile. Or I'll live in a single story plant layout that the city and one of the maybe WALLACE All of them we can go back to where we were in the 19th century but with the rise of many more people now. Yes now I agree with that but I want to say it was about the ideal city was that that the ideal city of the 20s and early 30s of course had two different configurations. One of the major one and the one that sort of been tried out consciously by planners and conscious architects and planners desire has been the one I described the day already has one of the concentrated city with these guys concentrated skyscrapers standing preferably in parks with automobile traffic running through it. But look at the CIA's other conception was the opposite kind of city it was the Strip City. How long has four roots that he worked out by the early 1930s where he had four routes that some of which seem rather old fashioned to Americans that can now. The the road the railroad and the air and along these four roads.
He saw a decentralized industry developing and housing developing in his early drawings. Look now just the way 128 has turned out to be your New Haven's Long Wharf project or the whole development out along through 91 and North Haven. All of that seems to work out quite naturally and even more effectively probably than the concentrated conception. In other words that conception seems more in accord with the actual forces that are working at least in what one might call advanced areas. God save the word. Like the United States then does the image of the concentrator one from which one would be led to deduce that it is in fact a tendency toward spreading out God. And the automobile and the centralized industry that is the natural development it seems to be going on there clearly are some exceptions not showing clearly so far as the United States is concerned there are at least two different United
States is that there is the East Coast which really is packed and where you're better off enough oxygen and there's the whole west away you're really you really do need a big soft huge American car to take the wins and to go rolling across the landscape there. There are two different scales the two different worlds. If as is being increasingly talked about here now we do start outlawing cars in central cities to alleviate the spiraling pollution problem. Well there are places that are obviously going to have to do in a few years if they're going to survive like that like New York like large parts of Manhattan that's perfectly clear. I don't think it would be very complicated or difficult either. It's interesting what you can do with the automobile just by feel the way they closed off Washington Square just by putting a barrier cross at the planners had worried for a generation about how you could induce traffic to go around it. All they do finally was put up a barrier and traffic went around it. So I think it could certainly be done. The only question is whether whether it's desirable to do it too much the
careful isolation of centers of the cities as pedestrian areas served by acres and acres of parking around the periphery tends to be a kind of nauseating and finicky image that that. It doesn't really ring very true. You get your you're your genteel little pedestrian malls in the middle so it's like a Belgian village at the World's Fair surrounded by acres of parking lots. I don't really know how much or how much it should be done in some places obviously going to have to happen just to be able to move and that seem it seems to me that if you have places that are that work well without the automobile I mean places that you should preserve one should bend every effort to preserve them simply because the wave of the future seems to be this spread out automobile world. That doesn't mean two things it doesn't mean that that's an ideal world or would be that we should give up what we've got that's good in order to get it. Fact is I think Professor Scalia's put his finger on what I think is probably the most fundamental planning issue. We wish to call it that this point in time. I must say I've been a
bit disturbed by some of my friends in the city planning profession by their unwillingness to come to grips with this issue a little more realistically. I so much of their criticism is directed against the automobile entirely they did bucket car blots they had an evil influence and should be abolished. We should abandon it and so on. That's really quite clearly not very likely in our society. I think if we were to put it to a vote this would not happen. For example I'm always struck by the results of the pier and various kinds of public opinion polls when they asked people Do you enjoy driving to work. I clearly do not so when I read these opinion poll results and find it only 5 to 15 percent of the population of most agrees with me that they do not enjoy driving to work I'm more struck and furthermore we find a majority usually around 60 percent saying they positively enjoy driving to work and another 20 percent or so say they're indifferent or moderately enjoy it. Now in the
face of these attitudes as long as we run our society by democratic principles and so on I think the chances of doing anything drastic about a limit aiding the automobile and so on is just beside the point that we should begin to think about and to recognize and to think about how we can. What I'd like to call discipline or self discipline ourselves and the use of the automobile. Now one observation immediately years that I think Americans having had more experience with the automobile have gone a good deal further than people in the rest of the world in disciplined use of the automobile. We still have a very long way to go and this discipline of the automobile not only involves. Better rules about driving and about times a day and areas where we may permit automobiles and so on. And also the kinds of priorities we accord to public transit vehicles for the use of the roads as against automobiles on. It also involves this thing that was Professor Scully referred to disciplining those who
provide the roads or the infrastructure for the use of the automobile. I meant all too often state highway designers treat the design of a road in the middle of an urban area the same way they treated out in the middle of the prairie they have the same kinds of specifications on cloverleafs and on off ramps and so on and the need for breakdown right lanes this kind of thing. And it's clearly these specifications are shall we say sometimes a grotesque luxury in the center of a city that discipline that's right and it should work both ways both both for the driver and for those who provide the service is a good example is that so call in or succumb French a ring road that they want to put through Trumbull street. You know occasionally it at the real rush hour which only lasts for about half an hour in New Haven. People are slowed up a little you can't put it even much worse than that. I slowed up a little getting out there on trouble or getting out quickly I knew for maybe for a half hour in the
morning and a half hour at night. Now to the old system would have been destroyed or a part of town so there for a very brief period during the day. There isn't that congestion instead of the self discipline on the part of the driver of Ada say I can stand to wait for 10 minutes and be on the part of the designer saying the overall 24 hour life of the town is more important than a few minutes of congestion on the part of the automobile. So the main problem is one of education both for planners and for citizens of the city is that the main problem the United States faces anyway which is hear of people who never have been fatness and affluence such as no people have ever known before but they're not happy. And one of the few places they really feel fulfilled is in the automobile and the reason is they do something for themselves they don't do as much for themselves as they used to do because they got automatics and all that stuff but still they have power under their hands they move from place to place they they think they do it under their own choice there's a sense of excitement. I love to drive. We love to
drive because it's the one of the few things left to us to do as one of the few activities that the poor and most of us of the poor can can indulge in and and when those automobiles take off in the city it's really like a jailbreak of the urban poor it's one act of defiance an escape drunk is code beating on the side of this thing at 70 miles an hour looking off into space down the middle of the city it's it's what we do. It's our it's I die and I see and release. And as has been pointed out I think quite rightly we will never disappoint not until we find other releases more complete and more integral and more varied for our lives. What we're saying is that the way society seems to be going today the way economic forces are working in transportation the automobile is part of our life in the city as well as out of the city. So we have to work with this in mind and not just take out the automobile and say it's being banned in every city throughout the country. So it can be disciplined us and our problem is to learn how to live with it and control it through or
effectively serve our purposes and basically this means disciplining it in various ways. It's giving and taking a little it's a combination of various things in America we've always wanted a clean cut solution or we're not alone in that but we're very characteristic of it. We want either all of it or not of it. You know death or redemption. There's no sense of the give and take of life and that's what we have to do. You know could we change the subject for a movement to the center of the city. You were saying Mr. Miller that the center of the city is less necessary for bookkeeping purposes less necessary as a rail center for transportation of goods. What is less because we use that form of rail transportation a bit less. What function does the center of the city know is soon. Well increasingly it's a place for what I would call the central office function and all its a role related in attendant activities
plus certain kinds of specialized retailing cultural and other activities that require service very specialized when you're a very large market in order to be viable and locating at the center of the city which is usually also the center of the transportation network is usually the logical place we're trying to assemble that kind of highly specialized market for these very specialized services and cultural activities. Incidentally I feel very strongly that when city planners try to retrieve the city for other things where the economic forces are working against them that is try to make maintain the city center is this for manufacturing of various forms especially for the heavier BDO classes of manufacturing are being rather silly. Not only are they blocking certain kinds of fundamental economic forces it tend to be difficult bark and do induce potentially some considerable inefficiency.
But it isn't clear to me that they really want to keep those things in the central city it's not at all apparent to me that we make Manhattan Island that much better a place by striving to keep the garment industry there. It might help to decongest and make Manhattan a little more comfortable for the other activities that have a more natural habitat there or if we slowly but surely allowed garment manufacturing and certain other classes of manufacturing to move to a less central locations much could be said about other activities going on in central cities and efforts to try and retain them there now the major reason a road that's now offered is the best social reason at least it's now offered for these efforts. Is usually to keep some blue collar or lower skilled jobs available in the central city particularly available for minority groups who may have restricted housing opportunities. I must live in close the central city and we want them to find employment and that's a commendable objective to try and have more nearly full
employment among these minority groups but it strikes me that we can be more imaginative and innovative in our social policies than we can think about possibly for example allowing these people some opportunities to have more housing and less central locations. You know our cities that is the segregation we can think about designing new transportation systems will be very different from the ones we now have new public transportation systems that would allow these people to get from their central residential locations more easily to suburban job opportunities. There is much that we could do without trying to unnaturally force the central city into functions which under modern technological and economic circumstances are probably ill suited to the central city. So then you could see housing in the central city you could see solar market area for specialized marketing and you could see centralized governing. Oh yes central if you mention central office with Central City
which I like the idea and I think chorus what you'd expect is the residences in close would be to some greater extent than it is now. Often the case in American cities would be involve people who work there or in the central offices in these government bureaus and and these other related service activities and these people very often are of the middle classes that are disappearing most quickly from our central cities not because they necessarily enjoy long trips from suburban locations into the CBD central business district but rather because for a variety of reasons regarding the taxes they must pay the schools that are available for their children and so on. Are they fled from the central city to these suburban locations. It isn't clear that this is necessarily a choice that they and have always enjoyed making. Seems to me there's a problem here with as we look at this thing just sort of empirically it seems to be that the city is opening out its center and distributing it across the landscape and so on. But if
that is so though it seems to me since men dare not be simply the tools of history but must make it or die in the attempt that one must ask a question of value and if you look at what's interesting in life still most of what's interesting goes on in the city. That's where the museums are and the galleries and the place is and the debates that you can participate in rather than just hang in there to do or take here and it's the place where still where the human mind seem to be most alert the most sharpened and so on. Now what happens if we lose it. What happens to the world if it does become simply the spread of this automobile world. One might argue that if one thinks that all of reality is involved in a tract house which you own which is entirely yours and then you never use public transportation you don't ever have any sense of the community really can do anything for you. The sense that there really isn't that community very easily develops it seems to me and somebody like well it's only like
McLuhan says and therefore the real community is in your electronic connection with everybody else. So TV and all that kind of thing seems to me that's absolutely false because you don't really participate and you can only be fed it. It frightens me I if it were going to be a world of suburbanites I think we have to very carefully ask where my mind is going to come from where freedom is going to come from all these things which the suburb I think of in a book for it is the other question. You also write next to a very important one again when the central issues of planning today. And again I think it involves redirecting energies to more realistic goals. Back to this question if you were into how things disperse and instead of trying to fight all of that dispersal and saying it's all bad now some of it may be bad but not necessarily all of it. Then it seems to me the alternative would be to think about ways of having more orderly dispersal and too little attention has been given by city planners and even by public
officials to this problem of figuring out how to make the sprawl orderly more statically attractive and environmentally more attractive. Nothing quite porous me so much as to get out beyond the platted original bounce of one of America's cities and watch what's happened in the post war period. A lot of this is to simply dismiss it as urban sprawl misses the point. What it is is that some of it has been very desirable is provided more homes with very high quality for many people or considerable improvement in the quality of what they had before. But the thing that's unfortunately could have been avoided by just a little bit better planning a little more orderly less bad land use bad street planning inadequate streets inadequate public facilities and utilities of all sorts and we often have to be rectified to great cost after the fact by a brutal half of the settlement or a significant portion of settlements already occurred. This is the kind of thing we have to avoid. We should
also point out that we've been so unfair and so negative that the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the last administration has a special task force on the problems of suburbanization and both the Department of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development came forward with some very original suggestions about how to improve this kind of planning. So we want to also observe the same sections of the public roads is doing better now on planning streets and set in cities than it used to draw six more aware of these problems when you talk about improving how you see a thing that is in so much a way as a kind of growth of the forces that are making it. Again it would be a great danger of falling into that trap of the ideal that one could do it I think people like that that great a former editor of landscape John P. Jackson. Whose articles in the fifties are still past finding ones of perceiving what really is there what really happens along the road what really happens in the strip where really the life and or of
people like Robert internees venturi with their study of Las Vegas learning from Las Vegas they did last year which turned out to be enormously valuable for the students and the planners to discover what really is their what you can grow from that. That I find hope for the present. What you're both saying then is that our idea of the city is the central core alone is an incomplete idea that the city we have to think of is the central city the suburban areas surrounding it. The transportation linking it to other cities and to highways we have to broaden our concept labelling the society as the city now. How much better and more effective we might be if we come to terms with some of the basic economic and social realities that are producing right these various trends. Absolutely and not try to thwart them or divert them or completely obstruct them but rather think of ways of channeling it more effectively
to achieve the obvious purposes we wish to achieve. The city what we would like it to be and what it probably will be because of the forces at work that mold it. Vincent Scully Colonel John Trumbull professor of the history of art and John Meyer professor of economics participated disagree wit producer of Yale reports moderated the discussion and editor of Yale reports is David Walker with technical supervision by Hyatt Le Moyne assisted by Edmund Robinson Hermann Hong and Stuart Gardner scripts of all Yale reports programs are available without charge by writing to Yale reports. 1773 Yale station New Haven Connecticut 0 6 5 2 0. This program originates in the audio visual center of Yale University. And he ARS special of the week Thanks Yale University for the recording of this program. This is any are the national educational radio
Special of the week
Issue 52-70
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