James Howard Kunstler tells it like it is. (Image courtesy of Dean Terry via Flickr.)
Never short on biting critique, James Howard Kunstler is one of the more outrageous commentators on the American built environment. Since authoring the seminal book The Geography of Nowhere, an exploration of the vapidity of American urbanism, Kunstler has spread his message through a variety of media, including his blog, occasional speeches, and now a weekly podcast. Billed as "a weekly conversation about the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl," the KunstlerCast delivers the goods, with inspired rants on a variety of subjects related to American places (and non-places) and the coming peak oil reality.
Be prepared for a heavy dose of sarcasm and the occasional curse word or two. Kunstler loves to let 'em have it, sparing no one his sharp tongue. Here are a few choice passages:
On "big box" architecture:
Now, because of the sort of throwaway culture we live in, it’s more convenient for these big chains to just tear down what is ever there and put up their own special purpose built box with all of the things in the right place so that the building is sort of pre-programmed. It is a machine for dispensing goods. It’s not even a building, it just happens to come in a form that resembles a building.
On adaptive re-use of buildings:
Actually, there was a case in Albany, N.Y., where a drugstore was purchasing an old school building, and next to the school building was a vacant lot. Rather than rehab the school building and use the vacant lot as a parking lot, they wanted to knock down the school building for their parking lot, build their building in the vacant lot. This is what they do.
On the future of the American city:
I think that the big cities are going to be contracting substantially, and in probably a pretty disorderly way. They’re going to enter insolvency, bankruptcy, difficulty in maintaining services. It’s going to be pretty gnarly in the big metroplexes of America. Personally I think that the small cities and the small towns are going to tend to be the more successful areas. And that young people ought to be very careful about choosing the places that they go.
This month, urban planning website Planetizen is collaborating with KunstlerCast, inviting readers to send their questions for James Howard Kunstler to firstname.lastname@example.org.