ISA HOPKINS

Raconteur. Adventurer. Kimchi Enthusiast.

The Death and Life of New Urbanism

I adored this post, from the Urbanophile, discussing the New Urbanist appropriation of Jane Jacobs – and the flawed logic behind that ideology.  Jacobs was an advocate of a bottom-up and chaotic urban experience, with density and diversity (of both population and form) as the only two necessary ingredients for great cities.  She celebrated cities for their uniqueness, the multiplicity of urban futures that different places could present.  The New Urbanists, conversely, seem.. Read More

Detroit: The Real Super Bowl Winner

On the whole, I was never, at any point in my education, a particularly diligent student.  Homework was done on the fly and studying was for suckers, and the crazy thing was that I not only got away with this attitude, but I got into Caltech with it.  (At that point, my lack of discipline caught up with me.)  What’s interesting, though, is that in spite of my disinterest in getting straight A’s,.. Read More

Fresh Views on Old Saws

A few things to mull over: 1.  Hey!  Maybe government assistance does trap people into poverty, but not for the reasons conservatives claim.  In fact, maybe the constant series of hoops that the poor are made to jump through and the bizarre incentives to “work” are, in fact, the problems! 2.  It’s only when the garbagemen stop coming that we can easily realize that we’ve got too much crap. 3.  Cars: less cool.. Read More

Go West, My Son

It’s easy to assume that centers of power hold the greatest opportunity for achievement; it’s why young people swarm the coasts, full of idealism and cliched dreams, and to a certain extent, the potential for innovation within established cities is true.  But to be amongst the interchangeable hordes of talented, ambitious, creative young people in a major city is often to also harbor a conflicting desire to escape to a simpler place.  .. Read More

Streets Ahead

(Shout-out to fellow fans of “Community”…) What’s so remarkable and fascinating about architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture and urban design is the way in which the built world so permanently enshrines so much complication: conflicting incentives, political ideologies, racial and class tensions, aspirational faith in technology.  It’s why the Jacobs-versus-Moses dichotomy continues to resonate to this day, and it’s why regular critical interrogation of design and building practices — across all scales —.. Read More

Required Reading

To my mind, one of the most fascinating elements of contemporary conservatism is the antipathy towards urbanism.  Social conservatism’s central pillars are, after all, economic self-sufficiency and “small town” values — knowing your neighbors, family-orientedness, etc.  (This is a generous reading of conservatism, but one that conservatives themselves often claim.)  Similarly, much of the urbanist movement since the 1990s has been rooted in the philosophy of famed urban thinker Jane Jacobs, who abhorred.. Read More

Addendum: Automophilia

My friend Erik offered a rejoinder to my previous post: that cars make road trips, and hence visits to out-of-town friends or family, possible, or at least vastly easier.  Until America gets itself a genuine inter-city high speed rail network, his point is definitely true.  But here’s another interesting bit to add to the mix: this post, from Sociological Images, points out the stunning poll result that 23% of respondents declared their car.. Read More

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Grist recently posted two good meditations on car ownership and its deceptions.   It’s been two years now that I’ve been car-free.  Before then, I was dependent on my car in ways that neither of the above links touches on: as someone who spent the better part of a year couch-surfing I literally lived out of my car, packing everything I owned into my trunk and carrying it around with me like a.. Read More

Sense & The City

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love cities.  I love the city in which I live, and I especially love that I can now walk to work — my office is downtown in a major metropolis but I have a beautiful and relaxed commute, on a walking path along a lake.  It is, in short, awesome. Given how nearly everything positive in my quality of life is tied to.. Read More

In Praise of Cities

I’m an unabashed city person — I lived in a “town” once, for about eight months, and loathed it.  (Everything was far away, and so goddamned quaint!)  I love public transit, Jane Jacobs, and most everything else there is to love about urbanity.  Which is why I also loved this essay in Foreign Policy (which, in turn, also reminded me of a number of issues raised in this backissue of the Harvard Design.. Read More