Andrés Duany responds as luminary mentor to young urban planner Karja Hansen in this essay on generational character, exclusive to Fortnight. Duany is a founding principal of international architecture firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), and co-founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, a movement to end suburban sprawl and urban disinvestment cited by The New York Times as “the most important collective architectural movement in the United States in the past fifty years.”
Duany recently won the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture for his work's reassertion of classical architectural and urbanist principles in contemporary society. Hansen conveys a similar respect for precedent in her essays for Fortnight on the built environment, such as Natural Tradition
, Marching In Place
. Fortnight pairs these two in a cross-generational dialogue that uniquely honors the history of their shared discipline.
I read these works being well aware of Karja's age, and by extension I see a representative of her generation. Forgive me for generalizing this individual, but it is interesting to do so.
What strikes me about her essays on urban planning
is (I think that I discern) her total absence of irony. What a blessed relief from the pronouncements of the prior generations! How good it sounds to read some, plain old, straightforward, unembarrassed, idealism. The other thing that I notice is the pattern of many disparate strands being woven together—not trying after the vanity of enhanced complexity—just groping, trying to grasp the hand they have been dealt.
Will the current economic debacle
be brutal enough to leach out
the overindulgence of their childhood?
In both those ways, the Millennial Generation
seems promising—better than expected. Yes, I know, every generation contributes something. But as the Boomers
wind down, increasingly aghast at the consequences of having taken apart the culture; and the ExGens
, very reluctantly acknowledge the incredible economic mess they have made (actually, more like a permanent economic decline), the only ones left standing without the stooped shoulders of penitents are the Greatest Generation
We know that a special combination of historical circumstances allowed the GreatGen to be great. The economic hardship
of their childhood prepared them for the heroic global mission against evil. The first crisis forged the character that made victory in the second possible. Will Karja's generation be so fortunate in its circumstances? Will the current economic debacle be brutal enough to leach out the overindulgence of their childhood? Will it forge them hard enough to deal with their generation's own mission: the greater evil of ecological catastrophe?
With the sincerity so apparent in this essay,
will this generation be too credulous
of the advice of their elders?
Compared to the Boomers' relatively paltry problem of Vietnam, and the ExGen's trivial Oedipal crisis, the Millenial's fate is fortunate—it requires truly heroic commitment.
My one concern is this: with the sincerity so apparent in this essay, will this generation be too credulous of the advice of their elders—are they too open as listeners to curtail the blowhard tendencies of the Boomers and Exers? I am afraid so (after all, they seem to have little problem with authority, as their parents were generally pretty nice and permissive).
To mitigate that possibility, I propose a filter: Go ahead and listen, because there is a lot of experience there—but only on the condition that there be detectable contrition. Be sure to also learn from the elders what not to do, because that is what they now know best.