Despite Appearances

For Mark Foster Gage, the main issue with suburbanization is its ugliness, for which the alleged failings of architectural education are held responsible.

Mark Foster Gage, the Robert A. M. Stern Professor of Architecture at Yale University, wants to build a “world that is more humane, habitable, beautiful, and just.” This, he believes, is to be achieved by improving the aesthetic quality of the built environment. In the preface to On the Appearance of the World, published in the University of Minnesota’s Forerunners series, he tells us how he arrived at this insight. Riding his 1200cc Triumph Bonneville motorcycle from San Francisco to New York allowed him the “contemplative solitude” from which to survey the tragic state of all points in between. “There are no Parises, Kyotos, Sydneys, or Romes between the American coasts,” he laments. Gage, unless intending some geographical revelation, is unhappy about the appearance of the flyover states. This, he argues, is all the fault of “twentieth-century architectural practices and urban theories,” as demonstrated …

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