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Why Do You Follow The built Environment?


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Ron and I were having this conversation recently and I thought it would be a good thread to find out why all of us are built environment hobbyists.

Ron said he followed the built environment because of civic pride and for me; that hit the nail squarely and forcefully on the head. He is right! (I cannot afford to live in a condo in the city, but I take pride in the developments for those who can.)

Many Americans have the us versus them mentality when it comes to many things, mainly sports. Take for instance rivalries like Boston VS New York in baseball, or Tennessee VS Alabama in college football. There are many other examples. For me, it becomes city versus city in regards to development, jobs, technology, livability , social diversity, social mobility, university presence, and many other factors. One reason I watch college football is more to enjoy the culture and pride of the university more than the actual sports.

Whereas one city may be proud of winning the Superbowl, I take pride in a gleaming new skyscraper, or a new civic development, because architecture and development say a lot about a city and who makes up their city. The amount of colleges and universities say more about a city than their sports teams do. That is why I follow the built environment.

Most Americans are not aware of what is happening in their own neighborhoods let alone their cities. Most Nashville citizens know nothing about what goes on in the city unless some group or politician is against something for reasons that in many cases do not make sense or are based on misunderstood facts.

The case could be said Tony Giarratana has received unfair criticism by those who know nothing of the built environment. I guess I almost see it as a mission to educate those by my interest in the built environment. Sports teams cannot do that. Once the game is over, it is forgotten and although New Orleans benefitted from the Superbowl win, it did not really change anything. Just think what the L&C Tower did for Nashville when it opened in 1957.

The built environment nerds back in 1957 must have been ecstatic at what happened on Fourth and Church Street. They knew what it would lead too. Edwin A. Keeble's masterpiece still stands today, and is still a significant piece of Nashville history.

Their civic pride must have been overwhelming. Nashville had the tallest building in the southeast when the Life and Casualty Tower opened in 1957. A little known fact was the original design was for a 17 story building, and Guilford Dudley and Paul Montcastle along with Edwin A. Keeble had a vision. They had a dream in 1955 to erect a statement, and this is why I love skyscrapers; they make a statement that most low rise buildings cannot. Every city in the country has churches. Every city in America had a grand civic building, but not many have an L&C Tower.

I am thankful for the dreamers before me. I am thankful men like Tony Giarratana take the risks most men don't. I have said many times before architecture defines a civilization. We to this day have no records of sporting matches from the Greeks, Roman's, and Mayans, but we have their architecture. We have remnants of their built environment. We have records of their architectural, mathematical, and engineering genius.

These are reasons why I love the built environment. It is a statement of who we are, and as a city Nashville has a long way to go, but the more we embrace our creative selves, the more we can achieve as a city and as a people.

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Amen! I was born and raised in Nashville. My parents still live there so I get to come HOME. I am hugely proud of Nashville, Middle TN, and TN as a whole. I LOVE Nashville and TN, and I am a huge proponent of my homeland!! I love Nashville so much I recently got a tattoo on my arm in Farthik, Nordic runes, that says Nashville!

I also love cities and their development. I guess my love comes from Legos, SimCity, and Civilization from when I was younger. I also love history and love to learn from where we came. I have learned a lot from joining this forum and a few other sites. At first, my view of a city was ATL. I still love ATL and still kind of look up to them, but my view was skewed as I thought 8 lanes of highway meant growth and progress. I now realize the value of architecture, preservation, and restoration, especially in Nashville. I have also realized that controlled growth is important such as mass transit and reducing unnecessary sprawl. I have lost interest in other sites as I feel UP is the best organized, friendly, and has the most traffic (although you can blame it on the slow down too). I hope to see many more years of progress through this forum and maybe one day I will get the chance to get out to one of the meets!

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Having grown up in the suburbs I always viewed a trip to a city as something special and interesting. Admittedly, the cities I was exposed to tended to be the modest ones of the southeast, depleted and hamstrung by suburban sprawl. Yet, I was still fascinated by the architecture, not only the tall buildings, which were striking of course, but the historic fabric, the neat and orderly rows of 19th C structures and their detail and craftsmanship. And the contrast with modernism, the monumental civic buildings and most of all, the sense of place, a specificity that is absent in borderless, undefined suburbs. Of course, movies and TV shows always tended to be set in glamorous cities, not in boring suburbs.

After college, I tried to find a place to live in Nashville, but was stymied by the lack of realistic rental options, so settled for suburban locals on the fringes but still in the city limits. I traveled into the city whenever possible. Volunteering at the Frist, frequenting bars and clubs to hand out with friends and listen to music and even just to walk around, take pictures and observe the places that did and didn't work. However, I didn't have much reference to go by, what makes a good urban space? Finally I traveled to and lived in some legit cities, places where live, work and play isn't just a real estate marketing slogan. Where cities aren't just business districts by day and entertainment districts by night but where people, families live 24 hours a day. These experiences have only solidified my conviction that dense, urban spaces are the places which are best for us to live, unless we are legitimately making a living in a rural context. The kinds of places we used to build, that evolved organically and logically, until we inexplicably abandoned them and gave up the freedom of our two feet for the tyranny of four wheels.

No doubt there are excesses and negatives to big cities; noise, pollution, dangerous traffic, affordability to name a few. Yet these are not insurmountable and don't outweigh the benefits: sustainability-the average New Yorker uses less energy by far than the rest of America, interaction-you get to meet people (even in a huge city you tend to frequent similar places and run into the same people so the supposed anonymity of the big city is sort of myth. Big cities are just collections of neighborhoods), integration and efficiency (utilities, police and fire and other public resources are concentrated and thus more efficient) and innovation (interesting things happen when people get together). Not to mention all the cool things to see and do, all accessible on foot and/or with transit depending on the scale of the city.

I didn't mean to get all lectury. Basically, cities seem like places built by creative, interesting people. And they're made for people. That's why they're filled with neat details and showy architecture and grand spaces. And the suburbs are built for cars going 40 mph which is why they're bland, featureless and sprawling.

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For me Cities are magical places where social and cultural exchange are facilitated. It's the output of those many many exchanges that makes cities so enjoyable to experience. As many of you know, there are many forces that work to erode that exchange - one of them being the built environment. I follow the built environment because I'm concerned about the natural environment as well as social justice. A complete and continuous 'urban' built environment works to the betterment of those and so many things. I tend to romanticize cities and the built environment but maybe that's because I feel so good in a moderately urban place versus a moderately suburban place.

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