From Readers

Regional ReviewQuarter 3, 2000

DESIGNING MASS MOCA
While Robert Jabaily’s “Letter from North Adams, Massachusetts” (Q4 1999) gives credit to MASS MoCA for the museum’s effect on its town and region, it does not acknowledge the architectural transformation of what is, in reality, a new building made of found elements. The sequence and variety of spaces, heights, textures, and materials are all the creation of present-day designers. Not one of the interiors shown in the photos existed in the original factory. Even the exterior courtyard illustrated is new — carved and shaped from old materials.

The “magic” the visitor perceives is no accident. Bruner/Cott’s design of MASS MoCA recently shared the American Institute of Architects’ Honor Award, the profession’s highest recognition.

Jonathan Hale
Bruner/Cott & Associates
Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

MORE SPRAWL
Flipping through the Regional Review (Q1 2000), I was aghast to see “America’s cities just keep growing, and growing, and growing and growing,” in Miriam Wasserman’s article “Urban Sprawl.” With the exception of some sunbelt areas where annexation is still possible, this is hardly the case. It is metropolitan areas in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis (not the cities proper) which keep pushing out. This is even true of Buffalo, which is losing population overall. Cities have been demonized for problems not of their making — social, economic, etc. — and for which it is impossible for them to be the sole source and responsible party for solutions.

Within New England, Connecticut is a serious example of suburban sprawl and urban squalor along with many new developments consisting of big houses on very big lots. Even when the homes are individually pleasing to the eye, they hardly replicate the traditional New England townscape.

Bruce Rosen
via the Internet


Miriam Wasserman’s article makes a good deal of sense. A problem that cannot be defined cannot be solved.

History suggests it is possible to have spread-out (urban) development without the car. In Sam Bass Warner’s Streetcar Suburbs, a classic book tracing Boston’s growth in the last half of the 19th century, it is the streetcar, not the automobile, that made possible “urban sprawl.” Farther away, Buenos Aires also grew up and spread out between 1900 and 1930 along a network of suburban rail. Surely, the rapid development of suburban rail in such metro areas as Chicago, Washington/Baltimore, and Boston, along with vast networks in New York/New Jersey/Connecticut, will not slow down sprawl. There, and in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, you have a massive replacement of the auto commute, but sprawl advances.

As you wisely observe, the question is growth.

Charles J. Stokes, Director
The Institution for the Study of the American City
University of Bridgeport
Stepney, Connecticut

Editor’s note: It has come to our attention that some of the data from the 1997 National Resources Inventory (NRI) used in Miriam Wasserman’s article, “Urban Sprawl,” is undergoing revision. The NRI is a survey of the nation’s soil, water, and related resources conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in conjunction with Iowa State University. According to Warren Lee, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Resources Inventory Division, a programming error resulted in an overestimation of the total amount of developed land in 1997. Revised figures were not available as we went to press, but are due to be posted sometime this fall at www.nhq.nrcs.usda.gov/CCS/NRIrlse.html.

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