Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Critiquing Rudofsky's Streets for People

Rudofsky published Streets for People a Primer for Americans in 1969. Until that time, the Library of Congress lacked an official book about streets and Rudofsky aimed to fill the void. However, the book mainly compares Italian and American architecture and planning, and assaults the American form while holding the Italian superior. Not once does Rudofsky attempt to consider why the landscapes differ. Instead Rudofsky lambastes American’s apparent ignorance for urban design in comparison to the Italian’s theaters, plazas, porticos, frescos etc.

Streets for People exemplifies the notion that it is easier to chastise but far more difficult to provide valid solutions for an ailing urban form. Rudofsky does not teach, he berates. Granted, the highly articulated Italian style deserves praise; however these landscapes were developed with a different vision and purpose. Some may argue that when comparing the United States versus the Roman Empire there are many differences. The development, history and age of our establishments are distinct. Our governments are different as well as our cultures, and therefore our needs.

While reading Streets for People, I hoped to gain greater insights about how to in fact make streets for people. Rudofsky’s flagrant diatribe even lacks constructive criticism. His one-size fits all approach, Italian design, is not applicable for places that do not aim for such a level of opulence. Rudofsky’s Streets for People leaves me asking one question; “do places and streets for people have to be extravagant?”