McMillan Two gets some feedback

Last week, I published the McMillan Two concept, after hearing about it on the Kojo Nnamdi show and interviewing the designer, Nir Buras. I’ve been pretty excited by the dialogue – the post of GGW received 88 comments and several thousand views. Others have jumped in.

First was the excellent constructive criticism by Alex Block. But he outdid himself with another article arguing for an ecologically balanced solution, which built on a post by…

…Mammoth, who delivered a strident critique of the more Eurocentric and anti-wetland flaws in the proposal. I commented on the article, and the exchanges between me, J.D. Hammond, and Rob Holmes are all good dialogue. The example of the Port Lands project in Toronto is worth examining in depth.

Straßgefühl, the only other blog whose name rivals mine, offers a counter-proposal based on the Sumidagawa river in Tokyo. The post opens up a new direction of thought, but it’s marred by insisting that Buras would be building a pseudo-historical development,  since the proposal has no pretensions of history.

Obviously there was the news coverage too. BDC offered his thoughts, Ryan Avent jumped in with a skeptical but enthusiastic reception, JDLand noted that the plan exists, and DCist had its usual commentary.

If you’re still thirsty for information, you can look at the earlier reactions: City Block’s initial thoughts and then a look at precedents.  Straßgefühl kinda-sorta liked it before; and Spencer Lepler was generally ok as well.

But it is great to see this kind of dialogue happening. The issues of nature, tradition, environment, autonomy, and culture have a lot of intersections not yet explored. The only thing everyone agreed on: tear down the highways. Interesting, no?

Bonus: Here’s an in depth article about Buras from Las Vegas Weekly. Read it!

7 Comments

  • October 22, 2009 - 11:28 am | Permalink

    I was more than a little alarmed at the comments on GGW about how the critics of Macmillan Two have “an affection for mud”. Or something.

    I personally hate mud (being obsessive-compulsive does that), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand that it provides a more useful service than Buras’ supporters are letting on.

  • October 22, 2009 - 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Gut reactions like some of the ones on that article are not useful except for gauging the kind of reaction. There’s a whole lot of conventional wisdom (trad and otherwise), but I want to see proof. I hate the GGW conversations that are all just a circle-jerk of received wisdom and people who’ve never read a book citing Jane Jacobs, or that density is magic, etc.

    Like they say in Missouri, “Demonstrate your goddamn thesis.”

  • October 23, 2009 - 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Well, that and occasionally complaining that parking isn’t magical enough. (Even the trolls are boring: less MPC, more Monkeyrotica pretty plz.)

    If it’s OK, I wanted to get to your statement that it’s inappropriate to criticize Macmillan Two as “pseudo-historical”. Buras’ entire manifesto of design explicitly references a series of historical design motifs, and the drawings he provide all borrow from Haussmann’s second-empire renovations. I think it’s hard to say there isn’t pretension to historicism here.

    My big beef with NU/neotrad (esp. Krier, who I love to hate) is that it doesn’t admit to its own postmodernism, though in a certain sense I think Buras’ attitudes toward nature as a construct are hypermodern. The presumption of Jacobean principles without really explaining them is part of this missing debt to postmodern urbanist theory, which pretty much began with Jacobs. I think if Buras continues to deny the references in his plan he’ll be treading down that path as well.

  • October 23, 2009 - 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and I find it interesting that while GGW acknowledges the idiocy of presuming rhetorical motives in some instances (“Lisa Rein Knows Your Dreams” was a great original title for this post), they have a habit of doing it a lot, especially when it comes between Alpert and his Shoupist hobbyhorse (ironic, given the above example).

    Saying that the ANSWER coalition or whomever \wants hard-to-find parking\ is a lot like blowhard pundits calling people “pro-death” or saying “you sure love having other people spend your money!” OMG dude, you can’t know what I want.

  • October 24, 2009 - 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Buras chooses those precedents because they work for his purposes. As Rob rightly acknowledged, the issues in his plan are not necessarily the aesthetic ones – although some of those reasons are driven by aesthetics, i.e. the obsession with geometry and order. He picked France because it’s beautiful and people like it. Those are his values – he feels that reviving a style that is timeless (in his opinion) is just doing the right thing.

    So it certainly is historicist, in that he relies exclusively on historical precedents, but it’s not pseudo-historical. Pseudo-historical is Disney-World; trying to recreate a past world. The most prominent example of this total revivalism might be the Gothicists of the 1900s, who had a knack for recreating medieval buildings with flaws for the sake of “authenticity.” You said it was a “pretension to history,” not to historicism, and there’s a big difference there.

    Perhaps Krier falls into that problem, but Buras seems almost detached from a desire to recreate the past. In fact, it’s not surprising that many of his ideas are “hypermodern,” because classicism (as opposed to renaissance or baroque borrowing of Roman forms) begins with modern philosophy.

  • October 24, 2009 - 5:41 pm | Permalink

    As for GGW’s blind eye on comments, it’s just the addictive pleasure of snark that makes smart people say obnoxious things. If there is one thing that Dr. Buras and I agree on, it’s that anger and bitchiness are not useful emotions.

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