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Thread: Ask James Howard Kunstler

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Ask James Howard Kunstler

    The books and writings of James Howard Kunstler are a popular topic on the Cyburbia Forums. A search for "Kunstler" alone will reveal hundreds of posts about the man and his works.

    In cooperation with KunstlerCast, Cyburbia offers the opportunity to pick Mr. Kunstler's brain about the form and shaping of the built environment, life after Peak Oil, or any other related topic. We'll pass on the questions to Mr, Kunstler, where they'll be answered on the KunstlerCast podcast. Transcripts of his answers will also posted on Cyburbia. If you're not a Cyburbia Forums member, please join if you want the opportunity to ask Mr. Kunstler a question or two.

    You can find links to KunstlerCast and other podcasts related to the built environment, on the Cyburbia Buzz podcast aggregator.

    Mr. Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He moved to the Long Island suburbs in 1954 and returned to the city in 1957 where he spent most of his childhood. He graduated from the State Univerity of New York, Brockport campus, worked as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, and finally as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he dropped out to write books on a full-time basis. He has no formal training in architecture or the related design fields.

    He has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, MIT, RPI, the University of Virginia and many other colleges, and he has appeared before many professional organizations such as the AIA , the APA., and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

    He lives in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Will the questions go to the same place that the ones for Witold Rybczinski went?
    I would ask him if there are any NEW ( as in built in the last 20 years) places that he likes, that he feels provides a model worth emulating.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Moderator note:
    I'm surprised at the lack of response to this. I'm unsticking the thread.
    I think that for a lot of us in planning, Mr. Kuntstler is more of an oddity and a running joke than an actual planning resource. I have attended his speeches and walked away going hmmm, but also embarrassed for my female colleges at his off color language. He has been predicting catastrophe for years...yet as most, he has not been right yet. I personally feel he is a one trick pony. I would lump Jane Jacobs in the one trick pony category also. They are individuals that are outside our profession and give some interesting insights, but the usefulness of the critique is limited. Just my opinion....and opinions are like A*****holes, everyone has at least one.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    A hypothetical question:

    Much of the criticism of suburbia in the planning profession is "too little too late." After 50 years the areas around cities are built out with automobile oriented, single family development and strip-style commercial development. Millions of people live in these areas for various reasons - affordability and safety high among them.

    If you were appointed Planning Director in a random suburban municipality what actions would you realistically take to prepare for a post-peak oil future while still balancing the political realities of municipal government and the desires of the public?

    Thanks for stopping by Cyburbia.

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Question:

    On more than one occasion Mr. Kunstler has remarked that municipal planners are by and large "poorly trained". I'm curious what training/educational programme he would consider good or even merely adequate training?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Moderator note:
    I'm surprised at the lack of response to this. I'm unsticking the thread.
    Would we be rightfully skeptical to consider the possibility that questions from Cyburbia might be the object of ridicule in a future KunstlerCast?

  7. #7
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas? View post
    Would we be rightfully skeptical to consider the possibility that questions from Cyburbia might be the object of ridicule in a future KunstlerCast?
    So? I wouldn't let that possibility keep anyone from posting their questions. It's a two-way street, and it seems Mr. K has gotten his share of ridicule here on a thread or two in the past. Turnabout would only be fair play.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    It's a two-way street, and it seems Mr. K has gotten his share of ridicule here on a thread or two in the past. Turnabout would only be fair play.
    I do hope there is no "turnabout" and that Cyburbia is portrayed with dignity on any future KunstlerCast. Snarkiness is welcome, but I wouldn't want the broadcast to portray Cyburbia in a negative light. Given the entrenched resistance Dan has experienced from other websites and the recent Planning magazine snub, it would be nice to know if this little cross-promotional event will be positive for both parties.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Question 1
    In many of your books and your lectures, you comment on how planning and urban design as been a complete waste that just result in communities that are not truly livable, have no sense of place, and are more or less cookie cutter versions of other lame communities. You have also touched on the whole political component in that Planners are hired to a job and at the end of the day if the political leaders don’t like those plans, ordinances, and codes, then the planner will pack up their green book and head elsewhere. We all know what’s wrong with Planning in America, specifically the safety of the political atmosphere, but what can be done to change public and political opinions regarding good planning and design?

    Question 2
    Having lived in three very different areas ranging from very rural to extremely dense, I have noticed that people for the most part don’t enjoy walking. At the risk of calling them lazy, they rather hop in their car to drive the 200 feet to check the mail. The only times that they don’t drive is when it becomes an inconvenience, specifically within the dense urban whelms such as Philadelphia and NYC, and even then the roads are congested with a combination of tour busses, delivery trucks, and cabs. This laziness or as I refer to it as the Apathy Epidemic, is now causing pedestrian friendly communities, especially in the Midwest and North East, to be continuously overrun with cars. At what point did people stop caring about their surroundings and want everything to be modified for what they perceive as the most convenient option? What would you suggest doing to reverse this trend and get people out of there cars and put the feet back on the streets?

    Question 3
    Change happens and one of the most visual proofs of this is with architecture. A previous discussion regarding ‘starchitects’ questioned why buildings don’t all have the same classic architecture. Why must architecture be from one point in history? The buildings that were constructed in 1800 are different than those constructed in 1900, and different than those constructed in 2000. If anything having a varied landscape of multiple architectural styles from various periods of history provides a fascinating contrast and further reminds the public that change happens. Why do you promote specific types of architectural design while discouraging other types of design, when they both can provide for the exact same pedestrian friendly environment, compatibility of multiple uses, and even adapting to the changing environment around them?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  10. #10
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Across the nation and particularly out west, there has been a boom in bedroom communities that typically consist of 95% residential development and scant commercial/employment opportunities. With the impending peak-oil crisis and the consequences that follow, do you even see towns like this surviving? A town that is mainly residential with few primary-sector jobs close as well as shopping opportunities for the locals. We are located in an agriculturally based county, but if people cannot afford to live here because they cannot afford to drive to work, who will buy into the localized agribusiness that will be an integral part of post-peak oil living?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    As a planner in a city in upstate NY we are dealing with with a population that is slowly declining in numbers. Do you have any suggestions for retaining or attracting young professionals to the area? (besides a plethora of bars!)
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  12. #12
    Question:

    While I agree with many of your ideas and have listened to some of your lectures online, I was wondering about one thing. There has to be a point where buildings will have break the 7-15 story barrier. You say skyscrapers will not be sustainable enough to continue to have, what should cities do if they are in a situation similar to New York City's Manhattan, or cities trapped by geography or other factors?

  13. #13
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I gotta' record the questions and send them in.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Send them in, Dan b/c I am listening to the podcast plugging the "other site"
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  15. #15
    Dan,

    If you don't have time to record these questions, let me know because there are other options.

    First, I can just read the questions on the show (but I think it's more fun to have a different voice reading the questions).

    Or, we can ask the folks here to call in with their questions, too. But if they do, be sure to encourage them to identify themselves as members of the Cyburbia community because I wanted to give you the opportunity to plug Cyburbia on our show (it's a free ad, basically, and you're welcome to it).

    P.S. did anyone catch Kunstler on the Colbert Report?

    http://www.comedycentral.com/colbert...isodeId=167078

    ---Duncan

  16. #16
    Cyburbian thinknik's avatar
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    I did, loved the bit about the folks who think the earth has a "creamy nougat center." As if! Very amusing. I was surprised to see how close together Mr. K's eyes are.
    Still, the guy is brilliant at what he does.

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