Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Public Space Shootout in the Aspen Corral

Public spaces – chief among them in most cities in terms of the real estate occupied being streets – are a legitimate topic for World Streets and sustainable transport/climate policy more generally. Last month friend Fred Kent traveled to the Aspen Ideas Festival and ended up in a bit of a brawl with Frank Gehry on our topic. Who won?

Let's have a look at this in four quick parts:

1. The gunslingers

* Frank Gehry you know (otherwise http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_gehry will get you started), and

* Fred Kent: you can check him out http://www.pps.org/info/aboutpps/staff/fkent.

2. The shootout:

Now while their spat here is not about public spaces as streets, the basics of the discussion – Fred's insistent challenge that "Iconic Architects" have an obligation to create "Iconic Public Spaces" have opened up a pretty interesting discussion, which you will find at http://blog.pps.org/smackdown-with-frank-gehry/ I find the comments worth a read and some reflection, and among them http://blog.pps.org/smackdown-with-frank-gehry/#comment-83901 does a fair job of summing up things from Fred's side at least.

The full Gehry presentation is at http://www.aifestival.org/audio-video-library.php?menu=3&title=525&action=full_info&qclip=1.

Fred's self-introduction and question can be picked up at the minute 54.15 marking, which also segues into their somewhat unpleasant exchange.

3. From the Project for Public Spaces site

Now on to the short introduction that Fred provides in the Project for Public Places site at http://blog.pps.org/smackdown-with-frank-gehry/#comment-83901

At the Aspen Ideas Festival last month, I posed a question to Frank Gehry about how iconic design and public space together could create more diverse destinations than iconic design alone. Gehry promptly dismissed me and refused to answer the question.

We urge you to explore what transpired - it is amusing, sad, and provocative at the same time. This blog post sets up an important discussion and we are eager to hear your thoughts and comments on how we might proceed. We are in the process of preparing a broader piece and would appreciate your input. Please respond by commenting on the blog or by emailing me directly at fredkent@pps.org.

4. Who won?

A pretty useful dustup on a topic that certainly deserves more airtime, but we can also understand why neither Frank nor Fred did not chose international diplomacy as their career.

The winner and still champion therefore is the topic.

And a reminder for us here at World Streets to give more coverage to the public spaces aspects of our charge.

The editor

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