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Education and the Good Life in the Urban Setting


by E. A. Gutkind - 1965

We need to renew entirely to eradicate the overpowering centralized city, to rebuild and redesign. The "good life" the fully human life cannot be achieved if we deal only "symptomatically" with the evils of our cities; the time has come to start again.

Dr. Gutkind, who is a Research Professor in the Institute for Environmental Studies, is a sociologist, city planner, architect, and a scholar in the history of cities. He has had diverse practical experience with European and American city development, on the basis of which he makes a creative and radical demand. We need, he tells us, to renew entirely, to eradicate the overpowering centralized city, to rebuild and redesign. The “good life” the fully human life cannot be achieved if we deal only “symptomatically” with the evils of our cities; the time has come, he says, to start again. His article is based upon a lecture delivered at Teachers College on October 27,1965.


TEACHERS WORK at the grass roots of city planning. They are in a unique position for instilling the right ideas and arousing a vision of what our urban environment should be in the minds of young people still in a state of formative development. It is their mission to awaken in the young generation a spontaneous feeling, an ever-present sensitivity for the improvement of their environment. It is the great privilege of all teachers to explain to their pupils that knowledge alone is not enough, but that understanding of the world around them opens the gates to a better and fuller life.


The theme of education in an urban setting gives me an opportunity to be as controversial as I possibly can in talking about the problems of our cities, about urban life, and our environment in general. However, these problems do not concern one country only, but all countries, for urbanization is now engulfing all parts of the world.


In such a world our cities are archaeologically interesting remnants of our neolithic past.


COMPETITIVE CONURBATION


Basically, cities are still the same as they were five thousand years ago, consisting of narrow canyons—called streets —lined by rows of houses; grouped around a center and limited now, not by walls, but by invisible barriers city treasurers have thrown around their communities through the imposition of local taxes; and surrounded by suburbs, as has been the case in past millenia. The competition between cities, which could be a creative emulation, has degenerated into the antagonism of the in-group and the out-group, into an uneasy coexistence of parochial attitudes. A sort of urban imperialism is spreading: the greater the number of workers absorbed into fewer and larger combines, the more cities swallowed up villages and smaller towns. The more the appetite of the big metropoleis grew; the more they indulged in a Cult of Bigness without trying to find new forms of community living.


The results are enormous: disorganized conurbations such as the Ruhr District in Germany; the Black Country of England; the urbanized belt from Boston to Washington, DC


A POST-CIVILIZATION BEGINS


The transition through which we are passing has the same unsettling effect as the transition from a primitive agricultural civilization to the early stages of city development, when man was uprooted from the land and became a city dweller, when his mentality changed from that of a human being embedded in his natural environment to that of an urbanite independent of nature and evolving a social and economic structure under totally different conditions.


Continents, which in the past seemed to play a passive role in the self-centered mind of Western man, enter as active participants the world of historical evolution. The impact of these tremendous changes can be felt everywhere. Think of Africa and Asia, and the enormous pressure these continents exert upon the rest of the world, upon the thinking and acting of humanity, upon the distribution of goods, upon their production, and upon the needs and ambitions of the emerging masses.


The transition to Post-Civilization, as it has been called, is just as far-reaching as the step from pre-civilized to civilized society; and yet we believe that we can deal with these problems primarily through so-called 'economic development' as we understand it today.


City planners are particularly inclined to continue on the established course and to evade the real issues. They believe that if they use a contemporary language of form, that is modern architecture, they are progressive. They fail to see that this hits only the surface, not the substance. Since they are in the forefront of those dealing with urban problems, theirs is an especially grave responsibility.


Our world is shrinking in time and space at an unprecedented rate and scale. To select one country only would knock the bottom out of our discussion. The problems of cities can be understood only in their world-wide implications. They are everywhere the same—only differences of degree, of scale and intensity distinguish them from one country to another.


CITY PLANNING AS SOCIAL ART


City planning is the social art par excellence. It is inescapable. To restrict an attempt at the clarification of these problems to a survey of so-called facts is, in my opinion, worse than useless; it is misleading. I intend, therefore, to try to bring out the ideas behind the facade of what you can see or touch, to elucidate, as far as possible, the ideas that have shaped and reshaped the outward appearance of our cities. For ideas are stronger than facts; they are the formative power that determines the scope and character of the facts and the type of environment in which we live.


The formulation of the theme is in itself contradictory. What is a “Good Life”? and is “Urban Setting” something that is almost automatically conducive to a “Good Life”? Cities exist—but why are they growing more and more obsolete, more destructive, more confusing, more disorganized? This question is still hotly debated. I am reminded of Ogden Nash's charming and profound statement:


God in His wisdom made the fly. And then forgot to tell us why.


It is this why that shall occupy us in this essay.


Man is the center of everything. And only man can find a solution to his problems— man as an individual being and man as a social being. What has gone wrong?


I have no intention to play Cassandra. I am an incurable optimist, but I want to be truthful about our situation. I want you to share with me the courage to face facts, real facts, not just empty slogans masquerading as the result of wise decisions. I want you to give up the futile waste of your time trying to find solutions to problems that have not yet been thoroughly analyzed and understood. I want you to face with me the problems of a world in violent upheaval, a world in the birthpangs of creation and tremendous changes. I want you to be convinced, as I am, of the justification of the famous words: “And yet—it moves.”


To prove this we must try to comprehend where we have failed, for—


Man, proud man,

Brest in a little brief authority,

Most ignorant of what he's most assured,

His glassy essence, like an angry ape,

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven

As make the angels weep.


What is the terminal point of our situation? What is a “Good Life”—for most people?


THE AMBIGUITY OF GREATNESS


This country has been promised a New Deal, a Fair Deal, New Frontiers, and now a Great Society that will be, I am afraid (judging from the somewhat confusing statements of the present administration) at best a great suburban society of narrow philistines and at worst a materialistic society with a thin veneer of uplifting generalities. It is entirely credible that our scientists and computers, these high speed idiots—I don't mean the scientists—may create an environment in which man has plenty of leisure, and plenty of time; but, when he has gained it, he will not know what to do with it. Leisure as one of the gifts of a “Good Life” will then be a burden, not a state of creative regeneration.


To multitudes the “Good Life” means going to a cinema, a theater, a concert, a game, in other words taking part in commercialized entertainment. There are, of course, the opportunity for social intercourse, the availability of institutions of learning and culture, and many other activities.


For the great majority of people the “Good Life” is identical with trivial entertainment, cheap music, superficial writing, and an unending stream of visual trash. Their life is divorced from an enthusiastic faith in the future. It is focused on immediate pleasure sustained by a simplification of the grave problems pressing in upon them. Their great ambition is the imitation of the upper classes, to keep up with the Joneses. The prospect of more leisure, more frightening than hard work, has turned into a fear of leisure. And science in its present morally irresponsible state does not hold out any hope of happiness—though it could do this—but only an ever-growing helplessness and dependence on the “wonders of science and technology.”


SUB-HUMAN SETTINGS


And what about the “Urban Setting”? In our cities there are now living—it would be more sincere to say “vegetating”—more slum dwellers, more unemployed, more uprooted people than there are farmers on the land. We have only recently experienced, in this country, outbursts of despair in the slum areas of Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other towns. The reasons for these outbursts are very simple. There is no need to search for complicated explanations.


The Urban Setting in which these masses are living is sub-human. Their environmental conditions are below even the minimum standards of decency and morally justifiable modesty.


For decades very little, or virtually nothing, has been done to eradicate this blot on the social conscience of society. Instead of large-scale operations to erase these slums, we have offered endless talk about Urban Renewal. But what is Urban Renewal?


It is, as a matter of fact, one of the most reactionary movements in our time. Compared with the advances in science and technology, it is a pastime of the eternal laggards who still rely on “conventional wisdom.” Cities have existed for five thousand years. But the early advantages of close proximity, of intimate and easy social contact, of mutual aid and purposeful personal activities have given way to traffic arteriosclerosis, to urban nomadism, to loneliness and an ever-growing emptiness of the life of the masses that can hardly be surpassed.


The fundamental fallacy of Urban Renewal is that it tries to renew something that is already dead or decaying and to retain a physical structure that is sick and out-of-date. Closely knit and functionally organized cities belonged to a world limited in extent and relatively simple in the interdependence of its different parts.


The old idea of a city center holding the urban area together has become meaningless. It belonged to an era when cities were small and their socio-economic structure was an organic whole. It belonged to an era that ended with the Industrial Revolution, when towns grew up around a temple, a church, a fortified castle, a palace, or a city hall as impressive symbols of their inner coherence and as active centers of their community life.


FOR REGIONAL REDESIGN


These are today's needs: replanning whole countries and large regions; thinning out all cities; creating new small communities; reorganizing the interdependence between all places of settlement; disentangling traffic; moving people out to new communities, and driving nature into the old, amorphous, and ugly towns and cities.


Can city planners not understand that the scale of all our actions is widening beyond anything we have known in the past? Can they not give up their preoccupations with minor and unrelated details and short-lived reforms? Is it really a solution to suggest the further development of the already over-urbanized belt from Boston to Washington, DC as one enormous megalopolis? Is it realistic to expect that, to mention only one example, Market Street of Philadelphia will be the hub of this vast conurbation?


Is it a solution to spend 300 to 400 million dollars on the erection of office buildings in the center of a city, as has been done, and to do virtually nothing about slum clearance and the systematic decentralization of a city?


But all this is regarded as part of Urban Renewal! Can't the narrow-minded administrators, who follow this line, shake off the fetters of the past, break through the thought-barrier and help to promote a revolution in our minds before we witness revolutions in the streets? I am extremely skeptical that they will ever live up to this challenge as long as they cannot shed the fetters of “the insolence of office,” as Shakespeare said, and step down from their self-erected monuments.


We have now, in this country, a Cabinet Department of Housing and Urban Development grouped around the Housing and House Finance Agency that has already existed for quite a few years. During this time, not one single genuinely creative idea has emanated from this Agency. There is no reason to expect that this will change in the future. So far, Urban Renewal has meant renewal of the city center, not the community as a whole.


That there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole concept of Urban Renewal was recognized at the opening session of the 4ind Conference of the National League of Cities held this year in Detroit. It was said at this meeting that “a city, a central place on a map assumed to be a creator of urban culture, is becoming obsolete as commerce, industry, wealth and political and intellectual power follow the movement of populations to the suburbs.”


The cities were called “dustbowls of the 1960s”—and rightly so—and it was pointed out that they had lost all “sense of community, of common responsibility.”


This is the “Urban Setting” about which I am expected to talk and to explain why it could be a place for a “Good Life.”


What is being created on the conveyor belt, so to speak, are standardized suburbs and the pompous emptiness of architectural showpieces in the city centers. The trend outwards from the center is not directed into productive channels.


How can this be expected from the commercial culture-mongers and their all too benevolent henchmen, those who are supposed to be responsible for community life?


SLOGANS AND FALLACIES


One of the arguments most often used to justify the renewal of city centers is: Here decisions are made and these decisions need proximity and cannot be made anywhere else. Even if this fallacy were true—and it is definitely not—what does it prove? It is a miscalculation based on a misconception. It is an empty slogan, deceptive, misleading, and out-of-date.


The days of these executive-ghettos are numbered. Nobody denies that decisions by the so-called power elite are needed—in the present set-up—and may increase in quantity and far-reaching influence. But telephone and closed-circuit television are gradually replacing proximity. We all know that a trend outward, a decentralization of offices, especially of head offices, is emerging and that there is no need to press more and more office buildings into the narrow space of the central cities.


The “Urban Setting” of today is everywhere basically the same. The result is standardized dullness and chaotic conditions. New York, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Calcutta are supreme examples. They are, like Imperial Rome, megalopoleis without a soul, a conglomeration of unrelated details, without identity and without a general plan.


All these remarks may seem to be a rather negative assessment of the situation. But I maintain, and cannot emphasize too strongly, that we have not even begun to discuss the essential problems cities are faced with.


What are these essential problems? I can mention only some of them, the most pressing ones: the impact of increased leisure on the physical, social, and economic structure of cities in all parts of the world; the impact of automation closely related to the problem of leisure; the enormous intensification and spread of mobility which make a loosening-up of the urban conglomerations possible and imperative; and, finally, the impact of science and technology in general upon all spheres of life, opening up unheard-of potentialities in reorganizing the decaying structure of cities.


Before we set out to chart a course for future actions, we must have a clear understanding of the present situation. However, don't expect me to present anything like a blueprint, like a detailed plan. What we should and can do is to outline the general trend, to chart the direction in which we should be moving and, having made a decision, stick to it.


SYMPTOMATIC TREATMENTS


Cities as centralized entities, as we have known them for millennia, are disintegrating through the impact of external and internal forces. Their organic coherence is disappearing, a process that began with the Industrial Revolution. Some of you, possibly even a larger number, will reply: We feel perfectly happy in our city. We have friends, we have stimulating experiences, and we don't think that our environment is too bad after all. My answer is—and I know that I am in the good company of people who have given more thought, more time, and more energy to the examination of these problems than most of those who produce more noise and smoke than their timid but well advertised actions justify —my answer is: Those who are satisfied with the present state of affairs—and I don't deny for a moment that they are sincere in their belief—are too self-centered, too modest, and not aware of the underlying causes that have brought the present situation about. They do not know what they can get and are blinded by the smoke-screen of facts enveloping them. They fail to see that the innumerable facts incessantly presented to them are not the problems themselves but are offered instead of the issues, instead of the causes. This bombardment with facts is just a plethora of information about symptoms. The result is that symptoms are taken for causes, and most people believe that to treat symptoms is a sufficient remedy.


But facts as such are meaningless. Everything depends on how we interpret them and how we use them. In other words, the ideas behind the facts are the formative powers. As Alfred North Whitehead said: “The new mentality is more important than even the new science and the new technology.”


If a leg has to be amputated, it is not sufficient to deal with the symptom of pain and to give the patient aspirin. The remedy is to cutoff the leg.


The aspirin for the ills of cities is the installation of traffic lights and the construction of expressways leading into the central city to improve the flow of traffic. We expect that this treatment of symptoms will heal the arteriosclerosis of our cities instead of asking ourselves (and acting in accord with it) what are the causes of this congestion, what is attracting more and more people and cars to the central areas. It is this failure to investigate the causes that makes all our actions stop-gap solutions. What a pitiful self-deception!


The people who are responsible for these misguided actions belong to that strange species of men who know all the solutions but none of the problems.


WIDENING SCALE


An era is drawing to its close that has lasted for many thousands of years during which mankind has passed through the Agricultural Revolution, the Urban Revolution, and the first phases of the Scientific Revolution. These three Revolutions mark definite stages in the development of civilization.


The Agricultural Revolution made man a sedentary agriculturist leaving behind his life as a wandering hunter and food gatherer. The Urban Revolution, cutting man loose from the land and from the eternal rhythm of Nature that had dictated the scope and character of his work, made him a city dweller engaged in trade and industry and protected by the walls he built around the space he had cut out from the surrounding country. He could do all this because agriculture had advanced far enough to produce a food surplus for those not working on the land.


The Scientific Revolution awakened man from the slumber in which the Middle Ages had held him captive, seeking his salvation in an unquestioning faith and accepting as the final revelation the limited universe with the earth as the center. It aroused his inquisitiveness, his quest for understanding the modus operandi of nature, and his ambition to verify his observations by experimental enquiries.


At this moment, modern man was born and the foundations for our own period were laid.

One common thread runs through all these Revolutions, linking all these millennia together in an uninterrupted continuity that is of paramount importance for the problems occupying us today.


This thread is the widening scale of all human actions, the ever widening scale of our environment from the narrow personal world of the early agriculturists and the city dwellers within the girdle of the town walls to the breakdown of these limitations in the Renaissance, to the expanding of man's living space and of his outlook, and now to the shrinking of our planet in time and space and to the conquest of outer space.


Distances have become meaningless. Mobility is one of the supreme preoccupations. The irresistible advance of science and technology promises mankind relief from drudgery and narrowness.


Is man ready for these changes? Can our cities cope with these tremendous possibilities? Can our cities survive?


The widening scale has disintegrated our cities without offering—so far—constructive solutions.


Our industrial societies are based on and conditioned by a complex conglomerate of knowledge of a multitude of facts that fail to merge into a synthesis. In large parts of the world they are dominated by an almost religious adherence to the profit motive, to the belief that innumerable isolated actions will eventually be fused in a coordinate whole.


Here we have the roots of one of the major contradictions baffling mankind though most people are not aware of it. It is the irreconcilable contrast between the rational precision of science and technology and the laissez-faire, haphazard way in which we deal with environmental problems.


FOR MORAL RENEWAL


Science and technology have outgrown social and, above all, moral integrity and awareness. And since city planning is first of all a moral responsibility — not a technological discipline — our cities and our environment are in the deplorable state we all know too well.


In spite of the heavy investment in the production of instant culture which, at the moment, is going on in this country, it is just a wish-dream to believe that culture—and above all a unified culture—can be made to order. This is particularly unlikely, since city planning and, for that matter, the transformation of our environment, have always lagged behind the often tempestuous changes in architecture and the arts in general. It is obviously easier to build an individual good building than to change the basic structure of a city. This gives us a welcome opportunity to pause for reflection and to prepare ourselves for the next stage of development, for a Revolution of Environment.


The humanist tradition, with its respect for the dignity of the individual which has guided our thinking and acting for centuries, is fading away. Depersonalization and a shallow rationalization are spreading. The factors that have contributed more than anything else to this decline were the rise of the masses—or the massification of society—and the deteriorating conditions of the urban environment since the Industrial Revolution. The concomitant result was a flight from reality as it was handed down to us by past generations. As Ortega y Gasset put it in The Revolt of the Masses: “We feel that we, actual men, have suddenly been left alone on the earth. Any remains of the traditional spirit have evaporated. Models, norms, standards are no use to us. We have to solve our problems without any active collaboration of the past.”


Hence our preoccupation with experimentation and external forms so characteristic of the arts, the morbid trend running through all literary work; and the now all too famous break-up of a unified civilization into Two Cultures.


It is difficult to explain the essence of a unified culture in a few words. But I believe we are near the truth when we say that it is the unison of the individual will with the general will, the merging of personal consciousness into group consciousness. And as to the Two Cultures, representing a scientific and a humanistic attitude respectively, I may add that this break-up of a unified culture has resulted in the appearance and the dominating position of practical man, of the Expert, and that it has prevented, so far, the development of new forms of social coherence, of new criteria and new values that could be embraced by a mass society.


It was architecture that led in the creation of new forms of expression, facing the challenge fearlessly and responding to the demands of an emerging new outlook.


Since architecture and city planning are basically identical, different only in scale but facing the same task, that is, to create space and space relations for the environment of social man—this is a hopeful sign. Both together can be—and I believe will be— most potent factors in evolving a new synthesis of the art of living and in giving direction and meaning to the forward march of a genuinely creative society reshaping anew its life, its goals, and its ambitions out of the raw materials of existence.


But let there be no mistake. This synthesis will be created only by humanity as a whole or it will not be created at all. It will be attained only by all countries, by all cities, not by one country, not by one city alone, and only if and when our standards and values have undergone far-reaching changes.


As I said before, the scale of our thinking and acting is widening. In such a world the centralized cities of the past cannot survive. Their self-centered, parochial narrowness cannot cope with the impact of new forces. They will have to be adapted to new goals, to the challenge of a newly found leisure, of a vastly increased mobility, and the still incalculable consequence of automation and science and technology in general.


Without wishing to indulge in an unfounded prophecy, I would remind you that the time may not be too far off when, with the aid of artificial insemination, mankind may be enabled to create a new species of composite men. This sets the standard for what we may be able to do. Why should we be afraid of a radical rejuvenation of our environment, if such unheard of potentialities are at our disposal?


Seen against this background of a world in turmoil, of the disintegration of old values, of a population explosion, and of the shrinking of our planet, Urban Renewal as it is offered us today, is just a pathetic parody of what is needed and of what could be.


The hectic, short-sighted activities of the eternal pragmatists who discard thinking and acting on the great problems in favor of a loyalty to little and quick results, and in favor of the self-perpetuating futility of never reaching a goal, will lead us nowhere. Nor will the blind adoration of the Expert and the almost fatalistic belief in his infallible superiority ever free us from the fetters of the past. As George Bernard Shaw said: “No man can be a pure specialist without being, in the strict sense, an idiot.”


Are all these considerations too abstract? Is this discussion of the ideas behind the facts, of the mentality that shapes and reshapes them inappropriate? I have no doubt that the incorrigible pragmatists and experts will say yes. But I would remind them of the truth that those who are afraid of ideas lose in the end their meaning and significance. Forgive me, if I remind you again of Whitehead's words: “The new mentality is more important than even the new science and new technology.”


Now, what shall we do to create conditions in which a “Good Life” in an “Urban Setting” can develop? Let me give you at least the outlines of a program of action.


REVOLUTION OF ENVIRONMENT


The essence of this program is the remaking of our environment as a whole and the decongestion of our cities by an internal loosening-up and a far-reaching decentralization leading to the replanning of vast regions on a large scale. In other words, to replace our dying and amorphous cities by living and stimulating communities.


The scarcity of space is first felt in our cities. The agents that make this most obvious are the automobile and the growth of the urban population. Hence, the chaotic sprawl of the urban agglomerations and the eruption into suburbs.


This means the end of our old concept of the city. It is not only the material but, above all, the ideal structure of cities that is crumbling and spreading disorder everywhere.


Is it a failure of nerve that prevents us from reshaping our environment and our cities on a large scale and makes us believe that we can attain far-reaching results from minor reforms?


What does decentralization mean? It means that physical and cultural decentralization must proceed together. One without the other will not produce the desired results. It means a new distribution of people, industry, and settlement, a reapportioning of functions over large regions, and the creation of numerous, new community units freed from the predominance of a metropolitan center. I admit that this very condensed definition may be somewhat difficult to grasp in all its implications. But, in this limited space, it is impossible to go into a detailed description.


People have a special gift of picking up the most easily available misinformation. This general apathy and the escape into predigested ignorance should be turned into constructive cooperation. A Revolution of Environment should, therefore, begin with educating the public to dispel the fog of complacent credulity, misunderstanding, and illusion that hides the true nature of the problem.


THE TEACHER'S ROLE


It is here that teachers can play a leading role. They can help young people to distinguish between symptoms and causes and teach them to look at their environment in a spirit of unbiased curiosity and inquisitiveness—and to see things whole, in the totality of their interrelationships.


The public does not know what it can get. Most people believe that it is sufficient to satisfy the demand for standardized cells for human ants. This response to the apathetic modesty of the masses and their ignorance of what would be possible if they were not exposed to the soporific effects of psychological manipulations, is a poor and dangerous escapism. The reversal of this process is a formidable task. May I quote a few passages from a paper read by Sir Julian Huxley, the eminent English biologist, at the Darwin Centennial Convocation of the University of Chicago in 1961:


It is hard to break through the firm framework of an accepted belief-system and to build new and complex successors, but it is necessary. It is necessary to organize our ad hoc ideas and scattered values into a unitive pattern transcending conflicts and divisions in its unitary web. Only by such reconciliation of opposites and disparates can our belief-systems release us from inner conflicts: only so can we gain that peaceful assurance which will help unlock our energies for development in strenuous practical actions.


The new organization of thought-belief-systems


must help us to think in terms of an overriding process of change, development, and possible improvement, to have our eyes on the future rather than on the past, to find support in the growing body of our knowledge, not in fixed dogma or ancient authority.


And he went on to stress the imperative need to free the individual from the fetters of conformity and timidity for:


Our thinking must also be concerned with the individual. The well-developed, well-patterned individual human being is, in a strictly scientific sense, the highest phenomenon of which we have any knowledge; and the variety of individual personalities is the world's greatest richness.


WHAT IS TO BE DONE?


The amorphous mass of urban conglomerations is to be split up into small and directly imaginable units.


Underdeveloped or overcrowded urbanized regions are to be opened up and thinned out.


The result of this systematic dispersal and decentralization is the Ideal Region and the end of the urban chaos and sprawl.


Easy mobility, a decongestion of traffic will make every place equally accessible.


A continuous grid of parkways, parks, and gardens will spread to all parts of the country.


To realize these goals we should begin with the firm resolve not to rebuild any slum areas but to retain them as open spaces or playgrounds, however small they may be. This is the initial step in the loosening up of the urban area.


The core of every city is to be thinned out and to be developed as a central open space. This, I am sure, will arouse the violent opposition of the so-called present leaders of the community. But I deny them the right to continue their misleading influence that has brought our cities to the brink of disaster.


It is the central city, the tendency to press ever more and higher buildings into the already overcrowded central district, that is the main obstacle to an improvement of urban living and urban planning. The center has lost its former significance as a unifying symbol holding the physical and the ideal structure of cities together as it has done in the past.


Only the absolutely indispensable functions of administration and commerce are to be centralized in a small but loosely laid out Desk City at the fringes of the central open space. This can be done in conformity with the present trend: More and more offices are already moving out to peripheral locations.


Parks, parkways, and highways for superspeed travel—100 to 150 miles per hour—are to be driven into the hitherto congested urban area and linked with traffic arteries throughout the countryside.


In contrast to depersonalized cities, new community units, restricted in size and functions, are to be laid out, and industrial units are to be dispersed at suitable intervals between the residential communities.


The nondescript canyons of the streets are to be transformed into open ribbons rhythmically articulated by buildings and natural features with free views to other parts of the communities.


Cultural and social facilities are to be organically distributed among the community units.


Our environment, now automobile and work centered, will be centered on man, and instead of computerized cities—the great ambition of the pseudoscientific pragmatists—we will have life-centered communities without air pollution, noise, traffic jams, and all the paraphernalia of present city life.


A dream? No. This is the only true reality that can save the future happiness of mankind. I am saying this as responsibly as I can. I know great risks are involved in such a far-reaching transformation of our environment; but to be creative means to take risks which we have to face and cm solve, if we understand the impelling moral nature of the challenge and act accordingly.


Knowledge alone is not enough. It is essential to understand the implications not only of the changes which affect our institutions and the forms of organizing our economy but the still partly hidden forces bringing change about.


The old cities were well organized social organisms with a stratified class structure, fairly well defined boundaries, and personal face to face contact. All this has disappeared but so far no constructive alternatives exist. Our cities have been too successful, that is, they have destroyed themselves through their over-ambitious growth, disorganized variety, and commercialized superficiality.


If we continue to press into our decaying cities which cannot offer a “Good Life in an Urban Setting,” the material and spiritual forces of the future that is painfully but clearly taking shape before our eyes, we will witness a social explosion that will sweep away the few hopeful beginnings that seem to emerge.


A WAR FOR REJUVENATION


We have to fight for this peaceful revolution. We cannot and must not stand aside and leave the battlefield to the entrenched establishment. The innate aggressive spirit of man must be turned towards a war for the rejuvenation of urban and rural living. This is the only war we want.


It is this war between man and nature, between his innate constructive and destructive urges, between a superficial tradition and the challenge of the future that will bring out man's potentialities that should be directed into creative channels.


Man must be enabled to rediscover his own personality, to distinguish between depersonalized institutions and living reality.


Will man be the master or the slave of the agents he himself has called into existence?


Your indulgence if I conclude with a special appeal to the teachers and the young people. The future is in your hands. You are the guarantors of the future. To live in a time like ours, with its tremendous possibilities and promise is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon us. May I repeat to you, as guide-posts and beacons of your thinking and acting in the future, a few words by Andre Gide which he wrote in Nouvelles Nourritures: “It is not only a question of changing the World, but also of changing Man. End credulity. Do not accept life as Men offer it to you. Rather, ceaselessly persuade yourself that your life and that of others might be more beautiful. As soon as you realize that it is not God but Man who is responsible for almost all the evils of life, you will have no share in them. Do not make sacrifices to false Gods.”


That is the war we want!




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 67 Number 3, 1965, p. 163-174
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 2279, Date Accessed: 1/26/2020 9:48:13 AM

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