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Featured Eyesore of the Month

August 2023

James Howard Kunstler : August 2, 2023 3:22 pm : Eyesore of the Month

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Behold: the “King Toronto” artificial mountain-scape of condos, now under construction in The Great White North’s biggest city. (The project is located on King Street, so the name issue is simpler than just royalist megalomania.) The design, by Denmark’s Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), nicely illustrates one the chief urban pathologies of our time: the wish to replace truly urban fabric with representational simulacra of Nature-this-and-that. The mania has accelerated lately with the hysteria over climate change, but it has been operating for decades. Wherever there is a large-scale urban demolition, the activists militate to turn the property into a “green-space” — which you may note is an abstraction, since it is rarely tied to any precise typologic understanding of form (do you mean a “park,” a “ballfield,” a “garden,” a what?). Why do they do this? Because citizens have completely lost faith in the architectural profession after 80-odd years of boring glass boxes, incomprehensible concrete blobs, wannabe-UFO’s, menacing needle-shaped towers, Cor-Ten rusty steel museum facades, library additions that look like tumors, etc!, etc!, etc!, in the immortal words of Yul Brynner…. Forget architecture… just give us… Nature!!!

King Toronto is the next step in this fatuous process. Whereas Boston’s “Big Dig” of the early 2000s ended up producing nothing on-the-surface besides a giant ambiguous grassy strip (“The Rose Kennedy Greenway”) instead any new buildings, King Mountain gives you an awesome mini mountain range complete with simulated “forest” concealing offices and flats within. Torontonians can feel morally secure… they are on Nature’s side! They are paying homage to the wonderful places that the city ain’t, the wild country!!! The result of this absurdity is the renunciation of urban form, per se, especially traditional formality as expressed in building tectonics and geometry.

The catch to all this — as I’ve averred before in this space — is that the age of the high tech mega-city is over. The coming scramble for resources and scarcity of capital guarantee that our cities will contract a lot, and that the process will be painful and messy as people and tribes battle over the districts with some kind of redeeming value — human scaled low-rise old townes, waterfronts…. Among the features of this process is that mega-structures will become difficult or impossible to care for. Many will simply be abandoned. Five hundred years from now, “King Toronto” may acquire enough windblown detritus to actually become a couple of hills on the otherwise flat collar of Lake Ontario.

Thanks to Jill DiGiovanni for the nomination!

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August 2023

James Howard Kunstler : August 2, 2023 3:22 pm : Eyesore of the Month

July 2023

James Howard Kunstler : July 5, 2023 11:56 am : Eyesore of the Month

June 2023

James Howard Kunstler : June 3, 2023 4:11 pm : Eyesore of the Month

May 2023

James Howard Kunstler : May 7, 2023 10:47 am : Eyesore of the Month

April 2023

James Howard Kunstler : April 4, 2023 4:47 pm : Eyesore of the Month

March 2023

James Howard Kunstler : March 4, 2023 3:37 pm : Eyesore of the Month

February 2023

James Howard Kunstler : February 2, 2023 2:32 pm : Eyesore of the Month

January 2023

James Howard Kunstler : January 4, 2023 3:40 pm : Eyesore of the Month

December 2022

James Howard Kunstler : December 1, 2022 11:15 am : Eyesore of the Month

November 2022

James Howard Kunstler : November 2, 2022 4:10 pm : Eyesore of the Month
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