The Incremental Uglification of Cities

By Dom Nozzi

There is an adage that has recently emerged that I really like: “I’m already against the next war.” I was reminded of this yesterday when we drove by the hideous modernist building going up on Canyon near the Transit Center here in Boulder Colorado. For me (and surely many others), “I’m already against the next modernist building being built.” Or “I’m already looking forward to that modernist building being demolished, even though the construction  has not finished yet.”

Shame on Council for not putting building design rules in place that would stop the incremental uglification of Boulder.

How to stop the descent into more ugly? Prohibit modernist design. Require timeless traditional design. We have a shining example of timeless right here in Boulder: The Hotel Boulderado. Despite the conventional wisdom, cities are allowed to require timeless design. And there are rules that make it possible.

My visits to the historic center of many European cities make this screamingly obvious. Like millions of tourists throughout the world, I fall in love with the splendor of the historic buildings. And am deeply saddened when I see some of those historic centers incrementally losing their lovable charm when awful modernist buildings that ignore context or basic rules of urban civility are painfully inserted into that historic fabric.

Admittedly, Boulder has very little in the way of an existing supply of historic buildings. But there is no reason the City could not obligate new buildings to use a timeless traditional design so we could incrementally move toward a more generally lovable ensemble of buildings in our town center (the new Elevations/Twitter bank building on Walnut near the Transit Center is an example of something new and timeless). After all, each modernist building that goes up makes Boulder incrementally more ugly and less loved…

A community has the right to promote the beauty of its public realm, and prohibit the degradation of the public realm.

Something else that saddens me: It seems nearly certain that what will ultimately be built (or retained) at the Alpine-Balsam redevelopment site will be largely if not completely ugly modern.

“There is nothing more dated than yesterday’s vision of tomorrow.”

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Filed under Politics, Urban Design

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