Last week we had the pleasure of attending a conference on “Building the Urban Utopia: A Blueprint for the Competitive Global City.” The featured speakers were part of a contingent from Gopher City, MN: Philip Space, internationally renowned architect and author of “Den$ity for Dummies,” Janus Babbitt, publisher of the Gopher City Truthiness Tribune, and city planner Uriah Heep IV.
PHILIP SPACE [under fluttering corporate banners]: I’m pleased as punch to be part of this great public-private partnership leading Gopher City into the world-class Midwestern Utopia it deserves to be. When I look around at city neighborhoods, I see a messy clutter of old houses, apartment buildings, and locally-owned shops. Our mission is to transform poor old Gopher City into a gleaming Shangri-La of new highrise apartment blocks, corporate stores, and rooftop bars.
URIAH HEEP IV [M.A.,Ph.D. Stalinist Planning and Architecture]: We at City Hall understand that government alone cannot build the competitive global city. Instead, our task is to facilitate increased density by protecting developers from the outcry that inevitably arises when a big development is proposed in a city neighborhood. O, that a developer’s grasp should exceed his reach, or what’s a citizen participation process for?
The City benefits when we issue demolition permits for historic buildings, wreck them, and then put up “green” buildings, so the citizen-taxpayers should foot the bill on every single level. Gopher City can become a mecca of tunnel-like streetscapes, interchangeable with any other city in the world, if only we had the will to clear out both history and the poor. Who likes having neighborhood riffraff hanging around bus stops and cluttering the sidewalks and public schools? What better way to run them off to suburban ghettos than by pricing them out with trendy new luxury apartments and condos?
PHILIP SPACE [pointing to a cardboard box with tiny cafe tables on the top]: I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to design the new GerbilCage Lofts, which have been certified as sustainable by an Internet outfit, GreenCon.com, which sells green building certification to developments. A bike rack out front mitigates the cost of discarding a carbon-negative building into the landfill, and encourages the building’s occupants to bike in the three months it’s possible to bike in Gopher City, given the weather. In any case, we don’t need to allocate enough parking for buildings. If tenants can’t bike, they should be walking or using public transportation. Do the right thing, residents. Pay it forward. Besides, we need those parking spaces for suburbanites who drive in for a night on the town.
URIAH HEEP IV: That’s right, Phil. An important piece of our development initiative is to attract suburbanites to play in the city. We need to offer mixed-use commercial nodes that allow people to drive into town, eat, drink, and be merry high above the streets below, free from complaints from neighbors down below about noise and vomit.
|Too drunk to remember name of the babe you slept with? No one cares here.
PHILIP SPACE: You got it, Uriah. But don’t forget that we must make these apartment developments attractive to Neo-Urban Suburbanites by urging them to sow their wild oats in the city before settling down in the ‘burbs. We want to make sure the city is a stop on the journey of a citizen’s life, but not the destination. This requires targeted marketing like the Slime development uses in attracting tarts to their bro-plexes: “Kicked out of your dorm? Live here.” “You’re going to screw here, why not bunk here?” “We put the -m in condo-.” Isn’t that hilarious? Slime’s marketing shows such a great sense of humor! Advertising condos promoting the ideas that women are sluts and men are drunken horndogs is so not politically correct–and that’s what makes it “cool” and “edgy”.
|Hey, sluts, whoop it up for a year at the City’s new bro-plexes.
JANUS BABBITT: We of the media recognize that the City and private developers can’t accomplish the building of the high-density New Jerusalem on their own. They need the help of newspapers, TV, and internet trolls to get these highrises built. My paper, the Truthiness Tribune, is happy to cooperate with City Hall in promoting high density development in Gopher City. Thirty years ago, by controlling news coverage of the issue, we engineered the sale of land we owned near our building for the City to build a domed stadium for our professional football team, the GC Lemmings. Last year, we helped again, getting $38 million for our remaining land and building so the private-public partnership could wreck the existing Rodentdome and replace it with a bigger, better new Lemmingbowl–all with substantial help from the taxpayer, and no public referendum! Now, that’s what I call journalism.
Vigilant trolls on blogs like UrbanGC grease the skids for development by framing local obstructionists–a.k.a. “preservationists”–[laughs] as NIMBY losers standing in the way of Gopher City’s rise to global greatness. Whose backyards should we build in? Ours? [laughs and slaps knee]. If mocking and name-calling don’t work, the trolls can always sort of agree with the obstructionists and spin wonderful greenwashing counterarguments to confuse them.
So-called “historic” Gopher City neighborhoods need to stop crying over their old dumps and stand aside for the next architectural wave. In the future people will laud the eight-story bro-plexes and office blocks built out of waxed paper and wasps’ nests – organic! sustainable! – as avant garde. As we all know, people always resist change, especially in the arts. In fifty years, those cranks will just love these innovative bro-miciles. We are at the forefront of a movement to warehouse insouciant youth. The only cost will be to the community. Those in government and business will profit, as they should.
PHILIP SPACE: Let me indulge in a little bragging about Gopher City’s newest development, a mixed-use behemoth designed by yours truly. We didn’t bother with changing the zoning; we got variances, lots of them. Zoning codes which stipulate building height and allocated parking are clearly for hoi polloi, whom we don’t want in Gopher City anyway.
With the cooperation of the City, we built the seven-story GerbilCage Lofts. In addition to 90 bro-pads, the Lofts boast a rooftop restaurant, Whore d’Oeuvres, and a ground floor pastry shop, Cheap Tarts. It’s the perfect development to anchor high density in the surrounding neighborhoods. Of course, those in the surrounding neighborhoods cried foul, but so what? Typical NIMBYs, thinking only about themselves and their neighborhood’s livability [shakes head]. Perennial faultfinders in affected neighborhoods like Gopher City’s Triangle never seem to like our big development proposals. Not cooperating? Maybe it’s time for some traffic problems in the Triangle. Oh, wait, they already have those. Haha!
JANUS BABBITT [high-fives Space]: Phil, you are a hoot! Let me conclude by summing up the blueprint for building cowtown Gopher City into a thriving global metropolis: To be competitive, contemporary cities need to be designed to bring in money for the developers and government. Density is synonymous with urban prosperity. If you’re not a person of means, there’s no room for you in the dense new Gopher City being built for the affluent and Neo-Urban Suburbanites.
The Gopher City of the Future will bulldoze the Gopher City of the Past. Who even needs that? All cities should be the same city, indivisible, with the same corporate chains and luxury boutiques for all who can afford them. The collusion of government and business is the wave of the future–and, I might add–[chuckles] the past.
HEEP: [clapping] Hear, hear!
[Applause. Space claps Babbitt on the back, and they bow to the audience.]
|Rush hour traffic by GerbilCage Lofts
. . .with thanks to Sinclair Lewis and Stephen Colbert