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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Building Ruins

It is our job as city builders to secure the funding necessary to build.  We cannot be frivolous, of course, but we must make the case for investment in infrastructure and architecture that lifts the soul.  Spending just enough to get by will be money wasted.  We will ultimately spend more as we return over and over again for repairs and minor functional improvements, and perhaps even an occasional beautification effort to address the worst of the ugliness, but we will never be satisfied.  There is no substitute for investing in quality.

We must be bold.  If we begin with the pessimism of limited funds, we will fail to produce the plans we need to carry us into the future.  Great plans will find investors, while weak incrementalism will only perpetuate stagnation.

If we are headed for ruin, let us at least leave ruins worth visiting.  Consider the great landmarks of civilization; some may be criticized for contributing to the financial collapse of those who built them, although I think that dubious.  There were invariably other, more critical structural problems that brought each institution to its demise.  The savings from forgoing their landmarks may have extended their life a little, but probably never could have saved them.  More significantly, the durability of landmarks has been a source of cultural and economic richness that accrues for generations beyond the measure of any discounted financial analysis.

As city builders, we owe a responsibility to the present and the future to produce quality landmarks. If we end in failure, let's make it the failure of ruins.

 Herman van Swanevelt (1603/1604–1655), via Wikimedia Commons

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