ARCHITECT contributor Aaron Betsky discusses the debate over whether architects should be focusing their efforts on downtown, urban cores or less developed areas in the suburbs. With the recent trend of consumers moving out of the 'burbs and back to urban centers, should builders be zeroing in on cities, or leaving them to take care of themselves? The more important question seems to be, how should be tackle the development of the suburbs?
What is to be done? First and foremost, we need to look at this landscape. Let’s face it: downtown is for strong forms that represent the will of the rich and the powerful. The true architecture of democracy must take place in the vast plains where everybody else lives. It is there that we have to figure out what is to be done. The task at hand there is probably not the erection of eye-catching forms. Nor is the suppression of this reality through the erection of moments of density presenting themselves as washed-out versions of a past that never existed.
I have said it before and I will keep saying it: architects must abandon their obsession with making ever fancier forms for ever denser Command and Control Centers, and start worrying about how to make better—more sustainable, more socially connective, and more beautiful—places out there.