On Thursday evening, as part of the Utah Heritage Foundation's Preservation Conference, I had the opportunity to hear Paul Goldberger talk about his thoughts on Salt Lake City's new downtown development project. Goldberger is a Pulitzer Prize winning author and former dean of the Parsons School of Design in New York City. He is currently an architecture critic for The New Yorker. Not only did he address the design of the City Creek Center development, but he also took questions from the audience and spent some time talking about urban design in general. I took some notes and thought that I would share a few of the interesting items. Overall, it was a good experience and well worth the time.
1. Salt Lake City's streets are too wide...good for driving, horrible for urban design. According to Mr. Goldberger, tighter and denser cities are healthier. Smaller blocks on tighter streets make a great "urban fabric" for a city (Think Portland!).
2. Great streets make great cities (Think NY, SF).
3. Architecture alone can't save a city or a community.
4. One way to measure a great city is by how it creates culture (LA, NY).
5. Urban malls suck energy out of a city like a vacuum cleaner.
6. In regards to building preservation, change doesn't mean decline. Preserve for the value we are seeking to preserve. Not for the fear of the new or unknown. Value buildings as living beings and not as museums. Don't use preservation to escape the present trends.
7. Preservation makes time stand still. Great cities make time stand still because you can see the architecture in layers...built and constructed over many years, creating unique urban design (incremental growth). It is much harder to create great cities (and urban design) when it is built all at once (like City Creek will be).
8. Las Vegas breaks all the rules with respect to architecture and urban design. It has no relevancy to any other place, which is part of the reason it is so great and successful. According to Goldberger, more people are found walking the strip from casino to casino than are found on Madison Avenue. The Las Vegas strip was initially built for cars only.
9. In the Q&A, I asked Goldberger to comment on green building and the architects role in developing cutting edge designs fused with green building. He responded by saying that green building is not going away and is a steady and certain victory for builders, designers and architects. Architects need to continue to create difficult and ambitious projects. City governments should adopt the LEED standard voluntarily and make it required. And local governments should offer tax benefits in exchange for building green.