(robotic dinging) – [Announcer] This program is presented by University of California Television Like what you learn? Visit our website, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest UCTV programs (light, upbeat music) – Good afternoon and welcome My name is Mary Comerio I am Professor of the Graduate School in the College of Environmental Design and Chair of the Hitchcock Professorship Committee We are pleased, along with the Graduate Council, to present Paul Goldberger, this year’s speaker, in the Charles M. and Martha Hitchcock Lecture Series As a condition of this bequest, we are obligated and very happy to tell you how the endowment came to UC Berkeley And it’s a story that exemplifies the many ways in which the campus is linked to the history of California and to the Bay Area Dr. Charles Hitchcock, a physician for the Army, came to San Francisco during the Gold Rush where he opened a thriving practice In 1885, Charles established a professorship here at Berkeley, as an expression of his long-held interest in education His daughter, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, still treasured in San Francisco for her colorful personality as well as her generosity, greatly expanded her father’s original gift to establish a professorship at UC Berkeley, making it possible for us to present this series of lectures The Hitchcock Fund has become one of the most cherished endowments of the University of California, recognizing the highest distinction of scholarly thought and achievement Thank You Lillie and Charles, and now a few words about Paul Goldberger Paul Goldberger holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at The New School located in New York City He is a Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair and has been called the leading figure in architectural criticism by the Huffington Post Until 2011, he wrote the popular Sky Line column for The New Yorker and served as the magazine’s architectural critic He began his career in journalism at the New York Times where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism in 1984 Goldberger’s first lecture will be an inquiry as to whether cities are becoming more and more the same, and why, and what the implications for this are The second lecture will discuss the question of whether or even if the premise of the first lecture is true Cities, nevertheless, remain catalysts for creativity and why A prolific writer, Goldberger just completed a biography of Frank Gehry to be published by Alfred Knopf this coming September, titled Building Art, The Life and Work of Frank Gehry He has many other books, most recent meaning is Why Architecture Matters, but I am not gonna read you this entire list We wanna hear him not me He has, however, chronicled the process of rebuilding Ground Zero, Up From Zero, Politics, Architecture and the Rebuilding of New York, which was published in New York in 2004 and was named a New York Times Notable Book He was educated at Yale University and has received honorary doctorates from Pratt Institute, the University of Miami, Kenyon College and the College of Creative Studies and the New York School of Interior Design He is a former Dean of Parsons School of Design, a Division of The New School, and has taught at Yale and the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley He is a frequent lecturer on architecture design, historic preservation and cities, often appearing in film and television He served as an architectural adviser to major cultural and educational institutions He has received many awards I will only name two The medal of the American Institute of Architects and the Medal of Honor of the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation Please join me in welcoming Paul Goldberger to Berkeley (audience applauds) – Thank you very much Mary This is the most wonderful old Berkeley room, I have to say, actually it’s a great pleasure and an even greater honor to be here, and to join this extraordinary series of Hitchcock professors who’ve come to Berkeley over the last hundred years

For all that we’re invited to give of our knowledge, I suspect that most Hitchcock professors have received far more than they’ve given And I know that that will be my case as well, so I’m especially appreciative of the invitation to be on this extraordinary campus again Now I’m gonna talk this week, as you’ve heard, about cities, what they mean right now in our culture and what we can make of them now in the early decades of the 21st century, about what cities are now and about what they ought to be I should tell you now, right at the outset, that I’ve decided to make this talk something of a revolt against the thing that seems now all too often to define the modern lecture, which is PowerPoint I’m gonna do something that is rare in the realm of lectures, particularly in the realm of lectures that have some connection to architecture and architectural history, which is to talk without images It’s a little bit, I know, like walking a tightrope without a net, but I will try it I’m doing it because I think a lot of the things I wanna talk about are familiar to most of you I’ll talk a lot about San Francisco and the Bay Area both today and tomorrow, and also because I’d like to talk a fair amount about ideas and I think that’s more important than showing you a parade of images I think you have enough images in your head already to understand where I’ll be going over the next few minutes And the other reason I’ve decided to steer clear of PowerPoint is because I am not interested in using it to throw data at you We’re deluged with data today And while much of it is useful and some of it even has the added benefit of being true, I don’t think the points I want to make are best explained by a cascade of numbers Now today’s talk is entitled The Generic City, Can the 21st Century Ever Build Special Places? A question that I hope is not entirely rhetorical Tomorrow I’ll talk about The Creative City, Why Cities Remain the Catalysts of Creativity, and I recognize that there might seem to be a bit of a contradiction between these two topics Obviously the two talks were conceived as a pair, but it would be a mistake to think of the first as pessimistic, intended to suggest that the city today is nothing but a generic banal place, the victim of the global monoculture, and that the talk I’ll give tomorrow is optimistic, intended to make the point that everything is fine after all because good things still happen in these dreary places It’s not nearly so simple as that And I’m not sure in the end that it wouldn’t be more accurate to say that today and tomorrow I’ll be looking at the same subject through slightly different lenses and showing how it is possible to look at the contemporary city and come to very different conclusions about what it is, how it functions and what it means for our culture But that’s getting ahead of the story Let me start by going back 40 or 50 years to the cities of the 1960s and 1970s, when in the in the United States and in much of the rest of the world if you did a free association test with the word urban, the answer you would probably come up with most often would be crisis, or problem, or challenge The urban crisis was a given Cities were harsh, dirty and dangerous And in this country at least, if you could afford to live somewhere else you quite often did The Asian cities that now loom so large, were large, but they did not loom They had very little to do with the global economy and they were technologically backward The major cities on the world stage were European and American for the most part, and a great many of them were a mess I began my own professional life in New York in the 1970s and when I talk about it I realize that the city I remember from my 20s is as disconnected from the reality of what students know today, as the world of The Depression that my parents and grandparents talked about was disconnected from the reality that I knew I don’t know that New York in the 1970s was as truly horrific as it was made out to be in the various movies of the age, like Taxi Driver and The Taking of Pelham 123,

but it wasn’t pretty It was dirty and ill-kempt The subway, though it wasn’t really too dangerous to ride in, was dirty and full of graffiti and various unsavory types, especially at night and it had a weird tendency to stop between stations mysteriously as if the equipment had broken down and there was either no announcement of what the problem was or a message over a malfunctioning PA system that sounded sort of like (speaks gibberish) Now in those days I worked at the New York Times, which was located logically enough at Times Square, which was not the prettified somewhat Disneyfied tourist environment it is now It was more of an amalgam of sleazy movie theaters, many pornographic striptease joints, massage parlors, pickpockets, muggers, you name it, all wrapped in a dazzling array of lights and signs I remember from time to time seeing the occasional tourist wandering around dazed and confused and wishing I could say to them, can’t I take you to the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, somewhere else so you don’t think this is all there is to New York You really did feel that the public realm was in disarray, that no one was in charge or that the people who were nominally in charge had no power to fix what was broken, that even the best of the public officials seemed rather hapless, bewildered by the challenges they faced We seemed unable to keep Central Park clean and safe let alone the subway system And while there were occasional extravaganzas that distracted everyone from the immediate problems at hand, such as the famous Be-Ins in Central Park that attracted thousands, often to protest the Vietnam War, remember this was the 1960s These events, inspiring though they were, only caused Frederick Law Olmsted’s astonishingly great work of landscape to deteriorate further because nobody was putting any money into maintenance and the park, like everything else, was falling apart Large corporations wanted none of this and dozens of them moved their headquarters out of the city Most often, as the great urbanologist, William H. Whyte discovered, to a suburban location in Connecticut or Westchester County or New Jersey that just happened to be within a few miles of where the chief executive lived Now there I admit is a piece of data that was quite useful to have turned up The city seemed to be losing not only its middle class which had always struggled somewhat under urban pressures but its upper class, the people who in past generations had sailed blithely over everything and everyone else It was terrifyingly easy to buy real estate because nobody wanted it You could buy great apartments on Fifth Avenue facing Central Park for $100,000 for even less A sum that today, in New York, won’t buy you a one room studio apartment in a marginal neighborhood If things were happening anywhere it was in places like Houston, where there was still plenty of money and a fundamentally suburban corporate culture that had only minimal interest in what we might call or would come to call later a culture of urbanism, a culture of cities Let me talk for a moment about that culture which was hardly limited to Houston It was really the American culture and it was a culture whose fundamental characteristic at least so far as urbanism was concerned was that it valued the private realm over the public realm The public realm, such as it was, was disdained, distrusted or ignored I’m not sure it was ever even really understood because when the public realm was really functioning in the great days of American urbanism, the decades before World War II, it was just a natural thing that people took for granted, like the air you breathed and the water you drank You didn’t think you were experiencing the public realm when you walked down Main Street and went shopping, or when you took a stroll in the park These were just the natural things that you did and I don’t think there was much consciousness of how important it was because it seemed like such a natural part of life, not just in a big city but in a small town or village, where the parks and village squares and sidewalks lined with stores were as much a part of life as the schools

and the churches and the houses But by the 1950s we’d begun to stop investing in this We weren’t conscious of how much the public realm meant How it was really the most important thing the city could possibly symbolize, had always symbolized, which is the idea of common ground The notion that the city expresses in physical form, the commonweal, and that the public realm stands for the way in which our diverse complex society can come together Not by papering over our differences but by acknowledging them, and by so doing, helping us to transcend them These are always our aspirations and it is in the nature of the city to facilitate them by privileging public space over private space But come the 1960s and 1970s, as with Central Park, so was it through much of the United States We couldn’t even take care of the public realm we had let alone build any more of it We didn’t seem to want to build more of it, that’s my real point, that society seemed to have given up on caring about the notion of public space, the idea of the commonweal as being represented by our common public realm The suburbs and the automobile culture, of course do the exact opposite of this They privilege private space over public space And while I do not mean to lay all of our urban issues at the foot of the automobile, there is no question that it has been a nearly constant enemy of cities But there is something about the urban idea and something about the automobile that are in some fundamental way incompatible When you make a city work well for the automobile it almost invariably works less well for the pedestrian The car is itself a form of public space, private space rather, excuse me The car is itself a form of private space And when you are in it you are disconnected from everything except that which you choose to connect yourself to Be it music, conversation, your smartphone or, as is increasingly the situation with children sitting in the backseat, television, all of which somehow seemed to have the effect not only of disconnecting people in a car from the world around them but also from each other Now I am really not here to rant about the automobile, as I said, or about technology But it is hard not to think that so far as the meaning of urban space is concerned technology does not always connect us as we like to think In some ways it separates us Cars are private pods zipping around in public space rendering it effectively private But then again people on telephones and listening to their iPods are in private space as well, disconnected from the people and the environment that is all around them The automobile and of course the airplane changed our sense of place, and by making us mobile, and less wedded to a single place than our ancestors were, but the technology of today goes that one better, and allows us wherever we may physically be to function as if we were somewhere else In effect, technology allows you to have a virtual presence anywhere which is wonderful until you realize that this has the result, in some ways, of making you feel like you are less where you really are And it makes all places seem more or less the same You know, once your very telephone number was a kind of badge of place, a sign of where you were You couldn’t be reached unless you actually were in that place, on that piece of earth connected to that telephone, that instrument that we now quaintly call a landline It’s increasingly common, I realize, for cell phone conversations to begin with the question, where are you? And for the answer of course to be anything from out by the pool to Madagascar Now I don’t miss the age when phone charges were based on distance, but that did have the beneficial effect of at least reinforcing a sense that places were distinguishable from one another

Now, with your cell phone, calling across the street and calling from New York to California are precisely the same thing They cost the same because, to the phone, they are the same Every place is just a node on a network And so, increasingly, are we, that’s my point Before we even get into the question of whether all places are physically the same, the idea I’ve called the generic city We can see that all places are equally accessible and that wherever we are, we are no longer rooted in that place in the way that we once were We may be physically in one place but we are now virtually anywhere and everywhere Before we move on entirely from technology I would like to come back for just one moment and make another point that is relevant to the larger question here and connects to the arguments that Dr. Richard Jackson at UCLA has been making for years, which is that the places in which people drive all the time are inherently unhealthy If you need to walk you will, and as a consequence you are healthier If you don’t need to walk you probably won’t or at least you will walk a lot less and you will be less healthy Health of course correlates to many things and not just this one, but Dr. Jackson has done a vital service to the world of architecture and planning in giving us another set of reasons for believing that the traditional dense pedestrian-oriented city is a good thing Many architects and planners have believed this for a long time And from time to time there has been other evidence about the benefits to the social fabric inherent in denser pedestrian-oriented towns and villages, not to mention the benefits in terms of energy use and sustainability But Dr. Jackson has shown us that the greatest sustainability we get from traditional cities is that we ourselves are sustained, because we are healthier There I concede is another instance in which some hard data is useful, even though I’m not focusing on quantifiable data this afternoon I want instead to talk about the nature of place and about what gives a place its identity Here in the Bay Area that question is an easy one It is the bay itself, the natural landscape of the hills, the landmarks of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the tower on this campus, the Maybach buildings and the other classic buildings of Berkeley just for a start We could go on and on No one has ever confused the Bay Area with any place else, and so, in a way, this is an odd place in which to be talking about this problem because it barely seems to be a problem here But let’s go down the peninsula a bit to Silicon Valley, to San Jose, to Mountain View and Menlo Park and Palo Alto Stanford aside, sorry I’ve mentioned that unmentionable thing I should have thought this through a little more carefully, I apologize Anyway an unmentionable private university aside, it is a landscape that looks pretty much like other landscapes, until recently at least, when a new whole new wave of building began There wasn’t much to tell you that this was the place in which the world was being remade In which the technology of the 21st century was being developed and the great fortunes of our time made What it was, for most of it, was a banal suburban landscape A place that looked like other places, and I should add, a place that depended almost entirely on the automobile Indeed for a long time the most notable thing about the appearance of Silicon Valley was how ordinary it was How much it looked like every place else, or at least like every other collection of reasonably prosperous American suburbs Yes it had that campus and some handsome mountain scenery marking its western edge But the rest of the place has always been made up of places that could have been almost anywhere like the 101 Freeway and the strip malls and the supermarkets and the car dealerships and motels and low-rise office parks Even after a few people began doing unusual things in their garages, and other people started inventing things in university laboratories and even after some of these turned into the beginnings

of large corporations, even then Silicon Valley didn’t look very different from everyplace else It was a landscape of freeways and strip malls There was certainly nothing about it that told you that this was a place that had generated more wealth than anywhere else in our time Or, more to the point, the place that seemed to demonstrate more creative imagination than any other place in our time You could go so far as to say that at least for a while a determined indifference to the physical world seemed an inherent part of the identity of Silicon Valley In the same way that you don’t expect computer geeks to pay much attention to their wardrobes, it didn’t seem odd that the Valley towns had a dull anywhere USA veneer or that the biggest and most successful companies seemed to operate out of low-rise buildings that looked as if they’d been built off the Long Island Expressway to house insurance agencies It wasn’t just because most of them started out on a shoestring and took what space they could progressing from a garage to random office space wherever they could find it It was also because, Steve Jobs aside, most people in Silicon Valley didn’t care much about what things looked like Buildings were kind of whatever, just like clothing, which is why the first Silicon Valley structures were to architecture as the hoodie is to haberdashery (audience laughs) All of this is now changing rapidly in a number of ways There’s a surge of interest in ambitious pieces of architecture now in Silicon Valley, driven partly by Steve Jobs’s desire shortly before his death to create a home for Apple that would be as refined a work of design as Apple’s products are The new Apple headquarters by Norman Foster looks rather too much like an Apple product, in my view I think it’s an object more than a work of architecture, an iPod blown up to gargantuan scale But that’s another discussion for another day Suffice it to say that Apple raised the bar And Facebook followed commissioning Frank Gehry to design a new complex that has just been finished and now Google is beginning work on a new headquarters designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group, the Copenhagen architect now resettled in New York and Thomas Heatherwick, the London designer These companies are now so large and there is so much money connected to them and more importantly so much determination to play a conspicuous role in the culture that architecture inevitably had to enter the picture The people whose job it is to make the virtual world for us had to acknowledge that they wanted a better presence in the physical world How successful all of this will be remains to be seen, but it is surely making Silicon Valley far less the generic almost banal environment that it has been for so long The other way in which this is changing is arguably more important, but I’ll talk more about that tomorrow since it involves a profound change in the relationship between the Valley and the city of San Francisco, and says a lot about the role of the city as a creative engine So I’ll come back to Silicon Valley and to San Francisco tomorrow and look at their relationship from a very different standpoint, I think a more positive one But for now let’s go to some other large cities, to ones that are not San Francisco, and talk for a moment about how they work at this moment in time I think it’s almost a truism to state that cities are more alike than they used to be The experience of arrival into similar looking airports, the trip to the center of the city often takes you along similar freeways past similar landscapes And upon arrival in the center city you see similar skyscrapers You unpack your bags in a hotel that could be anywhere and it doesn’t even have to be a tired Hilton or Marriott It might even be a trendy W or Andaz, and it is still the same or feels the same from city to city You take a walk and grab a snack at the Shake Shack or you shop at J.Crew or Ralph Lauren or Williams-Sonoma or whatever, the same places you find at home But it is not just the places that are increasingly the same It is also all of us We are more the same because we are less shaped by the culture of our individual places in which we live and more shaped by the culture of the world which we are exposed to

at every moment thanks to technology We must not underestimate the extent to which if places feel the same, it is because the people in them are more the same than they once were It can be anywhere, as I said, before it amounts in a sense to being nowhere Nowhere, that is, except in the virtual any place, every place that is the world of technology, accessible to all of us Now every place is, to a greater or lesser extent, a product of its time Cities built in the 18th century, at least in this country, had certain similarities as did cities built in the 19th and cities built in the 20th I say that not to deny regional or cultural or geographical differences, but to suggest that time has always played some role in shaping urban identity I’ll say more about that in a minute But I think that the factor of time will become ever more important as cultural and geographical influences become less important They will become less important because every place is exposed to the same ones The forces that made Paris different from London, that made Rome grow into a place different from Milan or Jerusalem or Istanbul or Tokyo Those forces no longer exist Those seven places are now exposed to and shaped by similar forces as global culture continues to homogenize This has been understood, if not always welcomed, as a byproduct of modernism for a long time Marshall McLuhan spoke of the Global Village, although he said later that he did not envision the connections wrought by technology as reducing differences as they appear to have done In 1932 Henry Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson coined the term the International Style to represent the austere minimalist modern architecture that they saw correctly was moving rapidly across the globe They were of course celebrating its spread not thinking about its consequences Okay, we all know that globalization, which often means the increasing westernization of all places, has a staggering impact and that in the face of this it has become becoming harder and harder for places to maintain a clear physical, not to say cultural identity What can we do about this? Let me bring our focus back to architecture by quoting from a recent blog posting by the architecture critic Witold Rybczynski, who tried to tie this to the never-ending debate in the world of architecture about, and I apologize for using this ersatz word, starchitects The celebrated architects who travel around the globe dropping new buildings into cities and then moving on to the next You know who I mean Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel, are at the top of the list right now Rybczynski said that such hype and, quote, high-powered architects diminished rather than helped cities largely because they don’t understand the places in which they build And he suggested that globe-trotting architects merely delivered the shapes that interested them with little concern for context In the long rise, in the long run, it’s wiser to nurture local talent, he said, instead of starchitects, locatects But is this so? And if skylines around the world are looking too much the same is this because the new and important buildings are done by the big names from far away and not by the locals? I’m actually more inclined to think that the opposite is true That the distinguishing new buildings in many cities are the very ones that were done by outsiders Cesar Pelli’s Petronas Towers in Malaysia, Kohn Pedersen Fox’s Shanghai World Center in Shanghai and Mori Tower in Tokyo Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar in Barcelona Frank Gehry’s Eight Spruce Street Tower in New York and Renzo Piano’s Shard in London No, they’re not all great, but they’re distinctive and they help give their cities skylines that push back against the forces of sameness, the tendencies toward the generic In Tokyo, KAJIMA DESIGN, an enormous design

and construction firm that is as local as you can get designed NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building, the eighth tallest building in Japan, and a conspicuous element on the skyline to look like a knockoff of the Empire State Building So much for the natives having an innate feel for the DNA of a particular place I’ll take the work of the carpetbagger over that kind of local any day Even taller than the NTT is the new Toranomon Hills Tower designed by another Japanese megafirm Nihon Seiki and it looks a lot like the angled slightly sculpted glass towers that you see in almost every city in the United States I don’t see much that is inherently Tokyoesque in either of these skyscrapers And I’ve been talking only about skyscrapers, the buildings that define the skyline Museums, civic center’s, concert halls, bridges, libraries, opera houses all give cities part of their identity as well and many of the ones that succeed best and make places feel special were not designed by local architects either, but by architects who were hired because it was thought that they could bring more imagination and a sense of freshness to the problem And often enough they have One of the best new buildings I saw last summer was the expansion of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who was about as un-Berkshires as you could get Everybody knows how successful Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain is, but I’m mystified as to why Witold Rybczynski felt compelled to say in that piece I was quoting that Gary’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is superior to it, and I quote, because Gary knows and understands Los Angeles better than Bilbao I admire both buildings, but if you ask me, Bilbao is the one that actually shows a more inventive, understanding and subtle connection to its urban context than Gary’s concert hall in his home city By the same token, is Norman Foster’s round Gherkin skyscraper really a better addition to London than his Hearst Tower in New York? Because Foster, again I quote, exhibits a surer touch on his home ground? Foster actually hasn’t lived in London in more than a decade, though his firm is based there For many years he’s lived part time in New York and part time in Switzerland, and his building in Midtown Manhattan possesses a swagger that makes it, to my mind, very much in character with its place But to Rybczynski, the Hearst Tower is not New York enough because it’s sculptural shape stopped abruptly on the 46th floor to give way to a flat top I bow to no one in my love of the crown to the Chrysler Building or the Woolworth Building and the Empire State Building, but I hardly see how that means that the flat-topped Seagram Building by Mies van der Rohe of Chicago or the CBS Building by Eero Saarinen, then of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, were inappropriate to New York Iconic structures confer a sense of identity on a city at least as much as they reflect that identity That’s where the issue of urban identity gets interesting in my mind, if not a little perplexing By that I mean there was nothing particularly Parisian about the Eiffel Tower until it was built And now, of course, for much of the world, for all of us in this room surely, it defines Paris What made it Parisian? Certainly not its height, since Paris, either then or now, was not known as a city of tall structures Yes, Gustave Eiffel was a great engineer and there was a tradition of advanced engineering in France but France was not unique in this regard The fact that the tower combines engineering brilliance with a lyrical beauty and that this is particularly Parisian, maybe But you could say the same thing about Eero Saarinen and the St. Louis Arch or the CN Television Tower in Toronto, each of which has made its form symbolic of its city, and by doing so has rescued the skylines of those cities from ordinariness If the lyricism of the Eiffel Tower made it right for Paris,

what is there about the graceful curves of the St. Louis Arch that speaks to something in the nature of St. Louis? Nothing, that’s my point We conferred the St Louisness, so to speak, on it later, which is how this process almost always works Surely the quirky Transamerica Pyramid by William Pereira, now is identifiable, a part of the San Francisco skyline as the towers of the bridges was not inherently San Franciscan But it come to be identified with the city perhaps only because the very quirkiness that made critics dislike it at first has made it memorable over the years And as the association with the city has grown and developed Now of course, so many huge skyscrapers have been built, the Transamerica which once seemed to punctuate the skyline is now barely visible within it But again the point is that there was not much about this building that automatically made it right for San Francisco Over time it has become so By the same token I would even venture to say that the only thing that made the Empire State Building feel like it belonged in the New York of 1931 was its height The Empire State’s magnificent profile, the thing that really says New York to us now and is as much a symbol of the city as the Statue of Liberty, was the creation of its architects, Shreve, Lamb and Harmon And it had no precise precedent It was an invented symbol and it has served us and its city just fine So the problem isn’t the famous architects It’s the banal and unimaginative buildings designed by other architects, and the fact that the skylines of most cities are made up of too many mediocre buildings that are much too big Of course we don’t like them I would venture to say that a lot of the complaints about cities looking all the same these days, complaints that, as I’ve said, I agree with to a large extent, nevertheless are really complaints about too much building, period If those buildings were better and not all so big, I guarantee that people wouldn’t hate them so much, no matter how many of them there were The real problem for most people isn’t that the buildings are the same from city to city, it is that there are too many buildings and that they are too big Case in point, let’s go back a little more than a hundred years to the heyday of the Beaux-Arts in the United States When architects were contorting classical temples into art museums, courthouses, libraries, city halls and even, yes, skyscrapers They were doing it in cities all across the country and they weren’t making the actual buildings all that different from city to city Cleveland’s skyline for years was defined mainly by the terminal tower A late 1920s masterpiece with a classical top designed by the Chicago architects Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, who more or less copied the crown of the Municipal Building by McKim, Mead and White Nobody complained that the buildings in those two cities were similar or too generic They’ve always been so well liked that it hardly seemed to matter I don’t think there were ever complaints that the Palace Hotel in San Francisco looked like it could have been built in Boston or New York, where its architects, Trowbridge and Livingston, did similar hotels This was a time when scale, by and large, was reasonable When very large buildings were the exception and not the rule, and when the natural order of things gave us cities that were more or less comfortable places, at least if you were not in the lowest rungs of the economic ladder and stuck in a tiny tenement apartment with a shared bathroom The natural order of things did not give us housing for everyone that met minimum standards, and that did not happen until planners intervened with building codes and zoning laws But a hundred years ago it did not take either building codes or zoning laws or the intervention of planners and urban designers to give us so many of the neighborhoods of San Francisco and Berkeley that we still cherish and admire, or Greenwich Village or Beacon Hill or Georgetown, the last three being places, by the way, that seem to have just the right amount of individual identity, but which also shared a great deal

from city to city And it wasn’t only attractive residential neighborhoods that were similar from city to city You could say the same thing about the museums and courthouses and state capitals all over the country They were widely accepted and admired despite how similar they were from one place to the next Yes, there was plenty of dissent from the likes of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright who hated the Beaux-Arts, and thought classicism was the scourge of the age, But that’s another issue Sullivan, for his part, built office towers in St. Louis and Buffalo that were sublime, but not, when you get right down to it, all that different from each other He may have been a genius, but he was not always much for genius loci And Wright, well the Guggenheim Museum is one of the greatest things ever built in New York City, but you’re on pretty thin ice if you try to say that Wright was reflecting the spirit of New York when he designed it He was doing exactly the opposite He was giving New York a new spirit that in time would become a key part of the city’s identity Most of those traditional architects were quite happy to jump from city to city designing more or less similar buildings Just as Witold Rybczynski accuses today’s big names of doing Henry Hobson Richardson was the starchitect par excellence of the 1880s, and Richardsonian Romanesque buildings in imitation of his style went up in every major city from Boston to San Francisco, not to mention Minneapolis, Dallas, Denver and St. Louis But you didn’t hear anyone complain that those cities looked generic McKim, Mead and White, based in New York built magnificently in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Providence, Minneapolis, Washington and even Rome So you could call them the first global stars But they weren’t the only ones Daniel Burnham, the Chicagoan who is celebrated for the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C., also built Selfridges Department Store in London, a wonderful, wonderful building, but one that, if truth be told, has nothing particularly British about it But we can’t deny, as I said before, that globalization has made things different in architecture as it has in everything Daniel Burnham had to sail across the ocean to work on Selfridges, and his trips probably spanned weeks He inevitably immersed himself in life in London and experienced it in a way that is totally different from an international architect of today who spends his or her life in constant motion That same Burnham, one of our first architectural powerhouses, came to San Francisco in 1904, invited by the city’s business leaders to design a plan He and his wife stayed for two weeks and as his biographer Thomas Hinds tells us, he, and I quote, explored in great detail talking, dining and socializing with personal friends and with civic and Association officials He swam and fished in the ocean at Carmel and he particularly enjoyed the exciting novelty of touring by automobile He gave speeches and shared his initial ideas then returned to his office in Chicago to think about the city for several more weeks, then requested that upon his return he be provided with an office in a structure atop Twin Peaks so that he could be where the, and I quote, from Burnham now, where the influence about me shall stimulate Golden Gate thoughts Downtown, Burnham thought, would not do since he needed a place where he could see and grasp the city’s remarkable landscape in its entirety Weeks and weeks of deep engagement and a desire to have a big picture of the city in front of him at all times So what did Burnham produce the following year when his plan for San Francisco was finished? A plan whose most significant element was the Civic Center, the area at Market and Van Ness where City Hall and other civic structures are clustered And the place that I think all of us would agree is just about the least San Francisco-like part of the entire city, whatever its other virtues Burnham was trained in the Beaux-Arts and he liked its grand classical buildings and formal axial boulevards He proposed several wide diagonal avenues

for San Francisco that, unlike the Civic Center, were never built There’s another irony to Daniel Burnham’s involvement in San Francisco, which is that the element in the city that he most disliked and wished to obliterate, though he knew he couldn’t was the city street grid It denied the special qualities of the city’s great Hills, Burnham thought, and he pretended that the city’s, oh no, and rather and he believed the grid pretended that the city’s magnificent topography did not exist By rejecting the city’s straight streets even knowing he was stuck with most of them anyway, Burnham thought that he was proving how well he understood the city and how much his plan spoke to San Francisco’s unique nature, how much it was not generic in other words But as all of you know, the relentlessness of the grid across San Francisco striking topography is in itself one of the key elements of the city’s identity It provides a kind of drama that exists nowhere else and makes real and powerful the juxtaposition of the man-made world and an unusual natural feature Paradoxically, if the grid could’ve been made to disappear and Burnham’s preferred plan for curving contoured roadways wrapping around the hills and gradually climbing up them had been brought into being, San Francisco might have felt less distinctive not more distinctive Sometimes the best way to play to the character of a place is to do the conventional thing where it might be least expected Still, Burnham’s deep engagement with San Francisco and his sincere attempt to respond to its unique qualities, whether or not he succeeded, can’t be doubted And this could not be more different from how things work today, with architects flying in and flying out Today, Burnham would have flown to San Francisco from his home in Chicago, been given a helicopter tour and been back home in Chicago the next day, or maybe on to Singapore And we all would have seen his proposals for San Francisco the moment they came out of his computer Unlike in 1905, when he presented his plan in the form of an elaborately printed book, drawings and models that were unveiled at a formal banquet at the St. Francis Hotel Now, of course, designs are created quickly and distributed even more quickly Everyone sees images of new buildings instantly on Instagram and Twitter and everywhere else You hardly have to wait months or years to learn what is getting built This means that if you were a real estate developer who wants to make a mark, you want the latest thing instantly Architecture has never been immune from fashion, but it seems more tightly bound to trend today than ever before I think it’s important to say again, that it’s not just because of famous architects that too many buildings in too many cities look the same The vast forces of globalization push relentlessly toward homogenization, and most cities are powerless to push back On the rare occasions when they do push back successfully, it’s often the celebrated architects who provide the best alternative to standard-issue commercial banality, who do the pushing back, so to speak And if that comes in the form of somewhat similar buildings from city to city, we need to remember that this is not a new phenomenon So am I saying, therefore, that generic is okay? That it is just something we learn to live with? No, despite the fact that generic was not invented in our time, that doesn’t make it desirable I don’t think that acknowledging the enormity of the forces of globalization and recognizing that they are too large for any city fully to resist, therefore means that we have to lie down and play dead before them We want places to feel distinctive Believing that you are in a place that is not entirely like other places is important not only for the places themselves but for us We receive a critical part of our identity from where we are, most importantly from where we live, but also from where we are even for brief periods If every place looks and feels the same then we are to a degree, perhaps more than we wish,

also the same Cities need to play to their strengths if they are to retain a sense of identity, which is to say that they need to recognize what it is that they have that makes them distinctive even if all are not in a position to become quite as distinctive as San Francisco Knowing what to do of course is another matter As Daniel Burnham’s miscalculation 110 years ago reminds us, it is possible to understand and respect the essence of a place and still come up with the wrong response to it A more contemporary example might be up the coast in Vancouver, which as you surely know, is an exceptionally pleasant City It has a beautiful waterfront, expansive parks, appealing downtown neighborhoods and jaw-dropping scenery The breathtaking mountains are, by and large, protected from overdevelopment The only thing the place lacks is architecture that you can remember for more than five minutes The city’s skyline filled with gleaming new office towers and high-rise condominiums is deadly dull Vancouver does all the right things It’s planners really do understand urban design and they know how to make streets in public places They believe in density, and they believe in walkability, two critical elements for a city, and it’s a joy to walk around Downtown Vancouver which is more than you can say for many cities But why is it not an equal joy to look at the skyline? Why in this place that is itself so distinctive is the skyline so generic? if the lesson the San Francisco Street Grid teaches us is that it is sometimes necessary to be counterintuitive and to juxtapose the plainest and most conventional thing with an unconventional context I think the lesson Vancouver offers is different It is that you need architecture at least some of the time If streets are more important than buildings to making a city work, and I absolutely believe that they are, architecture still matters, and something somewhere has to be memorable Now Vancouver has no risk of becoming truly generic Its scenery, not to mention its benign climate, ever-present waterfront and wonderful food will always save it from falling into the chasm of the ordinary But most of the architecture of that city puts the majesty of the scenery to the test When you have your back to the water and the mountains you are no longer in a distinctive place Creatively responding to what is distinctive about the culture or the physical setting of a city is the first way that a city can resist the push toward the generic But as we’ve seen in both San Francisco and Vancouver, it is not always eager to figure out what that response should be What goes hand-in-hand with these things is preservation, holding on to what you have, knowing it will become all the more precious as time goes on because it cannot be recreated Historic preservation increasingly means neighborhoods not single buildings, which often looks forlorn not to say ridiculous when they are adrift in a city of utterly different things We could spend an entire afternoon talking only about issues of historic preservation, so let me say here only that since we know it is becoming harder and harder to create places that are distinctive and that the natural order of things does not bring us to them We have all the more obligation to protect those that have been handed down to us, to learn from them yes, but less to preserve them like precious hothouse orchids and more to integrate them into modern life And then of course a city needs to be willing to trust in architecture to help It cannot save the day, but it can make an extraordinary difference I am saying this not to give a free pass to famous architects, but to acknowledge that while making a coherent whole and making civilized decent background buildings is the greatest mission of urban design, even the best urban fabric is not enough We also need exciting special buildings that excite the emotions

Those buildings that, as the critic and historian Lewis Mumford wrote, caused people to hold their breath for a stabbing moment or that restore them to equilibrium by offering them a prospect of space and form joyfully mastered Yes, if you try to make an entire city of such buildings the result is chaos, but that hardly means that we don’t need some of them One of the silliest aspects of the backlash against star architects is its implicit presumption that if you think that special one-of-a-kind distinctive buildings are good, then you must think that every building ought to be like that And since every building should not be like that then the logic goes, no building should be like that, no building should be exceptional Nothing could be more ridiculous Of course, Frank Gehry is not a model for anything except Frank Gehry and his buildings work best when they have the chance to play off against the everyday buildings that make up the urban fabric But we are in danger these days of losing our belief in special buildings Largely, I think, because we have asked too much of them We’ve asked them to shoulder the entire burden of making cities, and they cannot and should not do that When did believing in the urban fabric and believing in the ability of architecture to bring us special exhilarating intense moments become incompatible with each other We have got to begin to believe in both of these things again Every city needs to be a place in which the basic idea of urban fabric of streets and public places and decent but not spectacular architecture forms the foundation But if that is all we have, and if we lose our desire for great and special buildings that break out of all of this then we have failed our cities just as much The generic city is not only the place with identical glass towers and freeways and malls It is also the place that stops caring about things that are different and no longer builds buildings that break the rules and make you feel that you are in a place that is like no place else And that, the feeling of being in a special place, is one of the greatest gifts that any city can give us Thank you (audience applauds) Thank you – [Mary] Thank you very much, thank you very much – Thank you – [Mary] Thank you Paul, that was a wonderful lecture and we will have some time for a few questions We would ask people to keep their questions relatively brief so that everybody can have a chance And I will just put the microphone here and please ask your questions at the mic – Hope we didn’t answer every possible question in this – [Woman] I’ll take a quick stab – Sure – [Woman] You’re talking about, you mentioned mediocre architecture and not that you need to go on, I think we know what you’re talking about But what about the term vernacular architecture Could you talk about that a little bit – Sure, it’s a good, that’s actually a word that I could have been should have probably woven into this somewhere The term vernacular architecture, which is, this sort of meaning the common everyday language What I was saying, even though I wasn’t clever enough to put it in exactly these words, was that in fact we lack a good vernacular today and other periods had it I mean the great failure of modern architecture is not an inability to make great buildings it makes plenty of them, it has never made a successful vernacular If you look at the Victorian architecture of San Francisco, the brownstones of New York, the Georgian architecture of London, even the most ordinary buildings in that vernacular were wonderful and they made a civilized and beautiful city together We have not been able to create a modern equivalent of that So I think that, in many ways, is our greatest problem

and I think it is also one of the reasons that the preservation movement grew as large and as important a factor as it is in the sort of culture of building let’s say I mean the deep dark secret is how much preservation is motivated not by love of what is being saved but by fear of what might replace it, in fact (audience laughs) That’s, so anyway, yes sir – [Man] You talked about buildings they are too big, could you expand on that concept? – About buildings that are too big I did talk about buildings that are too big I did not mean by that to suggest that there is not a place for very, very large buildings But only that the average new building that so much that is being built today is so big that we have we have seen a significant change in scale in our cities, and that is an enormous challenge I actually love skyscrapers I wrote a book about them I love tall buildings Some of my very favorite things in the world are very, very tall, very, very large buildings I am not, that was not a cover for everything should be six stories high I was not saying that at all But there is a a sense of balance in a city and we have lost that in so many of our downtowns now That’s all I meant to say by that point – [Man] So actually I question along a similar line which is you were mentioning that there were, and there certainly are, cities full of buildings that you felt are too big and too many and often too much the same But what I was wondering is what the alternative was, so I presume the alternative is having an enormous number of smaller buildings And I wonder whether it could be hard to have much distinctiveness if you had that many smaller buildings or whether when you have the investment in a big building you can get the starchitect to build something distinctive – You know, San Francisco, I don’t mean to sort of make this all that local a talk and yet on the other hand I do have to go back to think about how reasonably successful San Francisco has been in creating a sort of urban vernacular of small to medium size urban buildings in downtown, many of which are really extremely decent, some of which are more than that and in which modern architecture does begin to have a certain degree of life and vibrancy to it, and yet still be quite urbane In general, I think you do, though, make a better city with more dense lower buildings I mean look at Paris for example, not that we’re going to ever remake our cities that way But it’s awfully nice when it happens But of course that alone is not enough either because if you look at much of Washington D.C., it is also eight story buildings built out to the street and it’s pretty dreary, most of it And so, I mean, who would rather walk, who wouldn’t rather walk in Paris than Washington D.C So there are many, many other factors that come into play here I’m gonna talk actually about Paris and San Francisco some more tomorrow as well Yeah, Dick – [Dick] So when I was young in San Francisco we’ve referred to our two iconic banks as one was the Bank of Italy – Right – [Dick] And the other of course was Wells Fargo So a couple weeks ago I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, and someone proudly pointed out that the hometown banks were Wells Fargo and Bank of America that now dominates And it got me thinking about, wherever I go I have this, we all have this presence of enormous wealth that’s being moved around and it’s one more way that the, because wealth dictates a lot of the buildings that go in, and how this is shaping this homogenization of everything around us So I just wanna maybe reflect on what you just said and think about it a little more if you would – Sure, actually tomorrow I’m gonna talk a certain amount about the sort of massive movement of global capital creating these sort of huge things

that seem to really be commodity investments more than buildings often, and what it means The fact that the Bank of America which was once the Bank of Italy in San Francisco and is now the Bank of America in Charlotte, and Wells Fargo, is in fact as good a reminder as you can about the the fact that all of this is about the movement of global capital and the cities are just the byproduct and sometimes the waste product (laughs) of that whole process Although, you know of course it has things that make life easier for us as well as things that make us hard I mean I Bank at Chase in New York and when I landed at the airport there was the Chase machine just like the one in New York and how did we ever live without these things So that it, there are so many ways in which this technology and culture benefits us as well as challenges us But, you know, it is so often the same people building the same things with the same money and the same architects for the same tenants in different places That in some ways I wonder why are we surprised that things are coming out the same But all of that said, I think it’s important to reflect on the point that I made about 19th and early 20th century buildings which was that we were building a lot of similar things all over the place then too, and we were not so unhappy about it So the notion that architecture, that architects and builders do similar things at similar times in different places is not new to our time But what is new to our time, I think, is a weakening of a local culture brought about in part by the homogenization of global culture and technology that makes the places themselves less able to assert an identity, less able to create an identity in the first place, than they were And we will see how all this plays out but I’m not encouraged about that I’m encouraged about a lot of individual works of architecture and not encouraged about our ability to make places remain distinctive So, anyway Yes sir – [Man] Hi, thank you You framed your praise for localism with praise for walkability – Right – [Man] And this little city has a history of innovation both culturally and architecturally to the point where Berkeley is kind of a shorthand for things and you were kind enough to mention Maybeck’s legacy I would predict that if you come back here in 10 years this city will be unrecognizably homogenized by a lot of major development that’s being greenwashed with appeals to things like walkability and livability And it all seems to be inspired by somewhere else by places like one word stereotypes like Portlandia or Park Slope and none of it’s really rooted here And I get around by bicycle, I’m wearing bicycle clips just to frame this, but does does every place have to be walkable? Does every place, is there a dark side to a good movement – Now there’s a great, wonderfully perverse question Does every place have to be walkable I think that’s a very fair question to raise First I would say we are in very little danger of every place being walkable. (laughs) We should only be lucky enough for that to be the real issue and the real problem Every place is simply never going to be walkable But what I do see happening, and I think this is to the good, is a greater respect for the values that are inherent in that word walkability, and to see it existing in sort of nodal ways in lots of places that are in a larger sense,

in a macro sense, not walkable Los Angeles is probably the best example of that I mean there are more neighborhoods today in Los Angeles that have a street life and are walkable than there used to be, in part, and here’s the law of unintended consequences, in part because traffic on the freeways has gotten so utterly unbearable that it was too much trouble to go across I remember when I first went to Los Angeles many, many years ago, you would think nothing of zipping from Malibu to downtown and then back to Santa Monica and then to Hollywood and so forth all within a day Well it would take you a week to do that now So in fact, the unexpected consequence of that is that more neighborhoods now have good restaurants, good shopping, attractive streets, cultural facilities and so forth and the city is actually a set of nodes, many of which on a small scale for certain every day functions, function walkably but then there’s the overlay of the macrocity that people deal with in a different way That’s not a terrible adaptation of a model I mean it’s a model we would not wanna create that way from scratch now but it’s evolved in an interesting way Does every place have to look like Portland? I hope not I think Portland is a lovely place but it would be a shame if everything sort of really did become like that And you know Park Slope too But I think, what you make fun of in Park Slope is kind of the culture of it more than the physical fact of the place which is, and here’s a good, another interesting thing about a lot of traditional cities Park Slope has a physical fabric of brownstones, a park, a few special buildings but a larger fabric dominating everything and then a couple of nice commercial streets, is a model for almost any kind of life and it works really well It doesn’t require the silliness of the Park Slope food cooperative or whatever all that stuff is that people make fun of there to exist A different kind of life could also exist very fruitfully there So I think it’s also important not to, while we must never fail to give proper credence to physical form and its impact on life and culture, I think it’s also a mistake to believe that it determines all ‘Cause sometimes they just coexist without having quite as much of a cause-and-effect relationship on each other That’s what I think Yes sir – [Man] So one of the great and probably justified criticisms of the starchitects of the last generation was their complete, the way in which they ignored the street context and people, the big empty plaza and all that Do you think the new generation of architects that you talked about, the star architects who are going around the world are they still creating sculptures in situ or are they focusing more on the life around them? – Well I don’t think that a sort of building that’s a significant and assertive piece of sculpture necessarily is anti-urban and avoids the street Some do, some don’t I’ve seen plenty that are in fact quite sophisticated and subtle from an urbanistic standpoint It all depends on the circumstances and who’s doing it and a million other things But yes I see much more consciousness of that today and much less comfort with either breaking away from the street or if you are making a public space, with making it cold and unsociable let’s say for want of a better term I think the work of William H. Whyte, who I actually referred to early in the talk was critical and I think that has sort of been pretty much absorbed into the culture I was going through the New Whitney Museum in New York the other day and talking to the director and he was talking to me about this little sort of mini Piazza that is at the front of it, between where you get off the High Line Park and go into the museum, and he was saying,

oh you know we’re, he said, I’m sorry you’re seeing it today ’cause the chairs haven’t arrived We’ve ordered all these chairs like they have in the Tourville in Paris, these little light chairs that people can move around any way they want And he didn’t even say, oh, you know, we’ve done this radical thing He just sort of mentioned that as if that’s what people do now So I think that that we have learned a lot It doesn’t mean we do everything right But we, I think, have learned more about public space than we had before And architects, when they are doing large-scale major projects, I think don’t try to convince the world that an acre of Travertine is in everybody’s best interest Yes sir – [Man] Inasmuch as you are speaking of the effect of good architecture and creating a sense of uniqueness of a city, I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned Gaudi and Barcelona Nothing could be more a perfect example Gaudi, and I’m an architect, and we toured that, spent days looking at Gaudi’s stuff Pure genius I thought Frank Lloyd Wright was the tops but Gaudi is my man now (audience laughs) And the other person is Calatrava – [Woman] Oh yeah – [Man] Very imaginative And unlike Frank Gehry, who I don’t have much respect for, we did Bilbao, very, very good Everything else seems hit and run where he does his shtick and just sticks his wild stuff on But the planning of the building itself is not good – Well, I would agree with you completely about Gaudi and yes I could certainly have mentioned him I didn’t think so, but I didn’t think to do so, but, and the talk was a little long as it was but you’re absolutely right It is completely consistent with the points I was trying to make There are actually many reasons why Barcelona is an extraordinary and distinctive city Gaudi is the most important but also the plan with those chamfered corners of that whole section there are many things about it that are amazing of which Gaudi, as I said, is the most eminent I don’t agree with you about Frank Gehry but that’s a longer story for another time. (laughs) And I think Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in particular is an extraordinary and beautifully planned and eminently successful public building, particularly on the inside But that will be another another conversation for another time anyway Yes sir – [Man] Thank you very much, and I really enjoyed your talk – Thank you – [Man] I was fulfilled and had no questions And then your soliloquy here in the question and answer period discussing the flow of, massive flows of capital, basically Christopher Leinberger’s arguments 17 standard product types, because that’s what’s financeable every day In some ways anticipating your talk today, The Generic City, I thought that was gonna be the punch line Can you tell me why you didn’t mention that in today’s talk? – Why I didn’t – Why you didn’t – Mention what’s financeable? – [Man] Well yeah, the fact that what’s what’s financing the generic city is a sort of development mechanism which is standard across the US and now globally – I sort of took that almost as implicit, that’s why I mean I don’t disagree with you – [Man] Yeah were very explicit afterwards and I agree with you, which is probably – I mean I now, I hope I get a chance to do some version of this talk somewhere else because all of you are very good editors and you’re actually, you’ve given me several points to sort of add in and in fact, that’s, you’re right I think I probably should not have made that implicit, I should have made it explicit, because it is absolutely right that the forces of finance play a far greater role in shaping cities than architects do However, that said, the nature of what is financeable has evolved and changed And there was a time not all that long ago when a strange building by Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry even, was utterly unfinanceable Frank Gehry is now doing condo towers for the Related Group, the New York developer and has done other things So that you, we have also watched some evolution in that world

It lags, obviously, architectural creativity by quite a bit, but it has, it has been affected by architecture as much as it has affected architecture in the last few years And I think that in itself is a fascinating phenomenon which could be a talk in itself as well, in fact I’m gonna talk, as I said, I said a little bit more about all this tomorrow in another context Thank you all very much again (audience applauds) – [Mary] Yes, please join me in thanking Paul Goldberger (light upbeat music)