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May 06 , 2008

Design Review

Challenging Urban Aesthetic Control


That the topic ofdesign review is somehow trou­ My biases are clearfrom the start: I am among blesome is probably one thing all readers can those who believe that, despite all signals to the contrary, the physical structure of our environ­ agree on. Beyond this, however, I suspect pros­ pects of consensus are dim. Differing opinions ment can be managed, and that controlling it is on the subject likely range from those desiring the key to the ameliorationofnumerous problems control tothosedesiringfreedom. Saysonecamp: confronting society today. I believe that design our physical and natural environments are going can solve a host ofproblems, and that the design to hell in a hand basket. Says the other: design of the physical environment does influence be­ review boards are only as good as their members; havior. more often than not their interventions produce Clearly, this is a perspective that encompasses mediocre architecture. more than one building at a time and demands As a town planner and architect, I am sympa­ that each building understand its place in a larger thetic to the full range of sentiment. Perhaps a context-the city. Indeed, anyone proposing discussion of these two concepts-control and physical solutions to urban problems is designing freedom-and their differences would now be or, as may seem more often the case, destroying useful. But let me instead suggest that both posi­ the city.
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