In a New York Times op-ed piece published this weekend, conservative writer Ross Douthat credited New Urbanism as being the savior of American aesthetics, and then loosely tying the movement to Steve Jobs. Confused? Well, he says "A “new urbanist” movement championed a return to walkable neighborhoods, human-scale housing, and pleasant public spaces. Our clothes became less garish, our cars more curvaceous, our civic architecture less offensive. And most remarkably, our machines ceased to be utilitarian boxes, and became something beautiful instead." This is followed by the aforementioned loose connection to Steve Jobs as being a New Urbanist, freeing America from the shackles of fugliness. Of course, this is all without any real bridge connecting the two thoughts. Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker was having none of this, tweeting "Douthat re beauty misreads the entire history of art, architecture and design -- amazing for one piece" and Ugly is bad. New Urbanists like beauty. Steve Jobs likes beauty. Therefore Jobs=new urbanists. Come on." And that is what you call a smackdown in a 140 characters or less.
Not to be outdone, Alexandra Lange, author and editor of letsgetcritical.org/ goes the pithy and harsh route. She tweets simply "This is what passes for design crit on our op-ed pages?!" Ouch. Mr. Douthat, we do believe you got double-teamed.
· Up From Ugliness [NYT]
· Alexandra Lange [Twitter]
· Paul Goldberger [Twitter]