Andres Duany Explains How to Build
Andres Duany, whose family fled Castro’s Cuba
in 1960, when he was 11 years old, has done more than probably any other
architect in America to revive the art of traditional community design. He
and his wife and partner, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, both educated at
Princeton and Yale, left the flashy modernist firm of Arquitectonica in
1980, and have since—with their staff of about 27, most of them based in an
elegantly converted aircraft machine shop in Miami—designed more than 135
projects in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and Australia. Their
ideal model is the classic American small town, and their first designs were
adaptations of actual nineteenth-century layouts. Work by Duany/Plater-Zyberk
Architects ranges from the resort town of Seaside, Florida, to suburban
developments like Kentlands, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to urban rebuilding
efforts in such cities as Providence and Cleveland. About 35 of their
projects have begun construction or implementation. Duany was interviewed
for The American Enterprise
by Philip Langdon.
TAE: You’ve looked at how people
behave in neo-traditional developments like Kentlands, as opposed to the
typical subdivisions built since the Second World War. What makes life in a
traditional development better?
DUANY: I focus first on those who are
ill-served by suburbia: for example, the children who can’t drive around.
It’s very obvious that in Kentlands they behave differently and they have a
much richer life. They have access to some 270 acres of sidewalks, streets,
houses, and backyards, and a school, places to shop, etc., as opposed to the
kids in suburbia who have cul-de-sacs. A cul-de-sac is great for young kids.
The problem is that there’s nothing beyond the cul-de-sac; they’re simply
cul-de-sac kids. The way that places like Kentlands and Seaside are designed
is a much richer experience for children, particularly as they get older.
And then there are the old people. I have met
senior citizens in Kentlands who are looking confidently at staying in
place, rather than going to retirement communities. When Kentlands receives
its town center, it’ll make a lot of sense to just retire in place, because
older people won’t need to drive around for things.
TAE: Do you think community design
affects family life?
DUANY: I think that for families of
different means to grow up together is healthy. Although people think it’s
all expensive, there’s an extraordinary income mix in Kentlands. There are
rental apartments right next to expensive houses, as well as townhouses and
mansions very close to each other. I once had the experience of having
dinner with some 15 people from one block of Kentlands, and I couldn’t tell
the ones who had bought the expensive houses from the ones who paid half or
a third as much. I think that affects the kids. I see them play together,
and some are townhouse kids, some are mansion kids, but they’re still
playing together. There’s no possibility of snobbism at that level, the kind
of false superiority that happens in suburban tracts. People see how similar
I think the standard upper middle-class
family that can afford several cars is served fairly well in suburbia. They
make a choice: they spend their money owning cars, they spend their time
commuting and driving around. That’s a choice that some of them are happy
with. So better community design may be less critical to the standard
family. But for the single mother, for instance, it’s very important. Our
secretary in the Kentlands office, for example, is a single mother, and it’s
convenient for her to just walk down the street and work with us. Her
daughter drops by all the time. It seems to be a nice relationship. She
doesn’t mind working late. She’s a block from her house. If that could be
achieved more often, it would be marvelous.
Also, people who work in our office are
building houses in Kentlands. The young architects have found little bits of
land, little slivers of ground that are normally wasted in the conventional
development, not suitable for conventional housing, and they’re building
houses for themselves on them. What has enabled them to do that is the
intentional imperfection of the planning in Kentlands, where, rather than
making every lot perfect, everything standardized, we let some lots be less
than perfect. Rather than being eliminated, they became less expensive, and
so they became available to a class of persons who normally couldn’t afford
TAE: In the past, you’ve talked a lot
about the importance of having things such as "granny flats," small
auxiliary apartments over the homeowner’s garage or at the back of the lot.
How have they fared?
DUANY: Right now there’s a waiting
list for them. But they’re no longer affordable, because of scarcity. Some
of them are renting for $900 a month. So, obviously, more of them need to be
But the more interesting and radical
contribution is the live-work unit which allows people to incubate their own
business, working at home. They are the commercial equivalent of affordable
housing. After some resistance because there’s no precedent, we now have
several builders, including three in Kentlands, who want to build live-work
units. In fact they’re competing with each other. One of them is a
conventional "big-time" builder who just sees the future in that.
TAE: What kind of work do these units
DUANY: It could be retail, although I
think they will principally be used for services, information management,
lawyers, professionals, creative types, art directors, artists, advertising
people. These are people who periodically need to meet with their clients,
but generally they don’t have the constant stream of traffic associated with
TAE: Does technology influence this?
DUANY: Technology has a tremendous
TAE: In what ways?
DUANY: Live-work units are the
physical manifestation of the revolution in decentralization that the
Internet provides. We’re now designing a whole variety of these units, not
just living above the store, but having an office in the backyard. Even on a
36-foot-wide lot we have units now that provide a workplace to the rear.
TAE: One of the things that’s been
very difficult for neo-traditional towns has been getting larger
concentrations of employment, something beyond an individual working out of
his house or out of an auxiliary unit.
DUANY: Well, I’m not sure it’s
difficult if there’s a market. The thing that happened to the first
generation of our new towns, such as Kentlands, was that they came on line
when the office market was overbuilt. In Kentlands, we planned very
substantial office buildings. But then came the overbuilding of offices due
to federal tax breaks (these are still unoccupied eight years later). If we
hadn’t inherited that distortion, there’s no reason our projects wouldn’t
have offices in balance with housing. As it happens, right next to Kentlands
there is an office park which essentially balances Kentlands. And in the new
extension of Kentlands on the National Geographic property next door, which
will double Kentlands’ size, there’s going to be an office park.
TAE: So you think that it is going to
be possible to get workplaces interspersed with, or very close to, the
places where people live?
DUANY: Haile Plantation, a development
in Gainesville, Florida, already has them. It has a terrific town center.
TAE: To continue my earlier question,
what does having workplaces close by mean to families and children?
DUANY: It’s basically an ideal, in the
sense that you have a short commute. Some people would like to remain at
home for work; some people prefer a certain distance. For me, the ideal
separation of work and home provides a possibility of coming home for lunch.
I remember when I grew up in Cuba, the school children came home for lunch
and so did the parents. I saw my father every day at lunch. And that’s
terrific—it really confirms the family, several times a day. So that’s an
ideal, perhaps unattainable for some, but what does one design for except
towards an ideal?
TAE: How do you overcome the obstacle
of zoning that doesn’t allow different, complementary things to be mixed
DUANY: Actually, one of the
extraordinary successes of the New Urbanism is that wherever I go these
days, it feels different from five years ago. We used to arrive as
foreigners, almost extraterrestrials: "What do you mean, asking about these
odd things?" Now I can’t remember the last time I showed up in a place,
whether it was Southwest, Northeast, Southeast, where mixed use wasn’t the
talk of the town. The planning departments are finally prepared to receive
this. The planning profession has absorbed, directly or indirectly, the
concerns of neo-traditionalism, and we increasingly find sympathetic people
and even legislation in place to accommodate it. Still, we have difficulty
with the road standards, the fire chiefs, and so forth. That’s harder to
explain. Most technical specialists don’t understand how to make a public
realm which really works for pedestrians? That’s less well understood than
the advantages of mixed use.
TAE: What’s the biggest frustration
for you in promoting traditional community design?
DUANY: One of the things that
astonishes me about people who assess places like Kentlands is that they
say, "Well, it has failed to do this or that," without any notion that
creating a town requires time. You know, urbanism is not instantaneous.
TAE: What additional things will towns
like Kentlands have when they have fully evolved?
DUANY: More live-work units, a series
of smaller shops, and a lot of entertainment, like restaurants, movies, and
a skating rink. And retirement housing, a couple of buildings of managed
TAE: Are there other projects that are
going to exert a big impact on the future of development?
DUANY: Disney’s town of Celebration in
Florida is going to play a huge role. It’s an enormous breakthrough because
of its economic success. See, Americans don’t emulate ideas that have a
limited market in this country. But they will emulate economic success. The
economic success of Seaside has been important to neo-traditionalism, but
the economic success of Celebration is crucial to what’s coming.
I think developers will look past the fact
that it’s Disney and see that it’s replicable. Some of its success has to do
with Disney. But it has to do with conventions that happen to be very well
presented by Disney. None of our other projects has had much advertising
budget. What Disney is able to do for the first time is to promote the
traditionalist idea beautifully. What we’ve been speaking about for 15 years
is now becoming widely understood. So I’m very excited.
Cures for Lonely Suburbs and Dying Cities November/December 1996
TAE: Could you describe your conversion from a fairly conventional
modern architect and urban designer to something not very conventional?
Duany: Well, that took place in about 1980. We were having great
success as young architects building high-rises in Miami Beach, including
the famous one with the big hole in it that was shown on Miami Vice. Then
one day I went to a lecture by a fellow called Leon Krier, the man who
designed the English model town of Poundbury for the Prince of Wales. Krier
gave a powerful talk about traditional urbanism, and after a couple of weeks
of real agony and crisis I realized I couldn’t go on designing these
fashionable tall buildings, which were fascinating visually, but didn’t
produce any healthy urban effect. They wouldn’t affect society in a positive
The prospect of instead creating traditional communities where our plans
could actually make someone’s daily life better really excited me. Krier
introduced me to the idea of looking at people first, and to the power of
physical design to change the social life of a community. And so, in a year
or so my wife and I left the firm and went off to do something very
TAE: You have written, “where the users of buildings, or even
passersby, have a voice, we know that the strong preference is for
traditional architecture. Democracy leads inexorably to traditional styles.”
Duany: That’s right. That’s a reality. I do believe there’s one
aspect to modernism that is useful, though, and that is the fact that it’s
critical of existing conditions. Modernism isn’t content with things as they
are. Unfortunately, it’s an alienated criticism, full of distance and
emotional separation —in contrast to earlier movements that aimed for
constructive change. Where older varieties of reformism wanted to take what
exists and try to improve it, modernism just wants to throw away the
past—lock, stock, and barrel.
TAE: If the strength of modernism is its critical approach, then
why aren’t we seeing any progress in the evolution of buildings? You
yourself have written: “Travel to a city and ask any host to help you find a
bad building erected prior to 1930, and you may well spend all day driving
around in a vain search. Now look for a bad building erected after 1960. You
will probably find one just by turning your head.” Why have we gone
backwards in this area?
Duany: The real problem is the impulse to be avant-garde, which
severs our ties with the past. Avant-garde buildings can occasionally be
quite beautiful. But the win-loss ratio is horrible; unacceptable. To get
those very, very few successful, glorious, modernist buildings, you
sacrifice an enormous percentage of failed buildings at every level, because
each designer tries to reinvent the wheel instead of improving on
There was a short generation, covering the 1970s to the late ’80s, when I
would say architecture schools were genuinely open-minded. Before that, they
were highly ideological modernist shops, and since then they’ve become
ideological again. During that brief thaw, though, there grew up a body of
traditional architects who are superb. A big group. It’s just that they have
virtually no polemical ability. They don’t know how to project themselves.
Their attitude is that they hold the high ground, and all they need to do is
fortify the high ground with beautiful buildings. If we make our stronghold
attractive enough, they believe, people will come to us. So what’s happening
is that the traditionalists hold people’s hearts, but modernists command
most of the intellectual territory. And traditionalists aren’t aggressive
enough to capture new turf.
The avant-garde has built and built and built on the idea of the
alienated artist. If you engage the reality of what people truly need in a
building, you’ve “sold out.” If you haven’t fought bitterly with your
client, you’ve failed as an architect. This is inscribed in the minds of
students by academics who very often are themselves failures as
practitioners. That’s a nice game, except what’s happened is that, as this
has overtaken all the schools, the best architectural talent has been
removed from action.
I mean, the reality of this country is the American middle class, right?
We have a very small upper class and a relatively small poorer class. But
the avant-garde artists can’t engage with the middle class. They’re too busy
trying to talk people out of “bourgeois” notions like comfort and convention
and beauty—the very things that define any architecture for the middle
I have done a lot of public forums. I find that when you engage the
community as a whole—the regular people—you find a lot of wisdom and
enlightened self-interest. On the other hand, leaders of various disaffected
minorities (usually self-appointed) often just create friction. They
rabble-rouse to generate opposition, then offer to drop their resistance if
you give them something.
TAE: You’ve complained that some poverty activists actually resist
measures that reduce poverty.
Duany: Oh yes. There are, for instance many, many places where
what the town needs most desperately is what is now derisively called
“gentrification.” When I study most inner cities I see poverty
mono-cultures. The arrival of some higher-income residents is exactly what
they need, so it’s amazing that gentrification has become a negative term.
What smart urbanists want is to have a full range of society within
neighborhoods. You need people who are CEOs, and people who are secretaries.
You need school teachers, and you need somebody to deliver the pizza.
Society doesn’t work unless there are all kinds of people around, in
relatively close proximity. Any society that has only one income level is
dysfunctional. And, by the way, the great thing about the American system is
that everybody can actually aspire to rise to the level of “gentry.” We
don’t have the generalized envy and resentment that you find in many other
But “gentrification”—attracting the middle class back to poor areas—is
sometimes resisted by certain local activists. Why? Because it threatens to
break up their political coalitions, and their base of power. When I first
ran across this I was just amazed. I was so naive. Why wouldn’t this poor
area want middle class people moving in? I mean, you need the tax base. Now,
I see selfish local bosses as the source of the resistance.
TAE: It does appear that cities, campuses, political parties, and
all sorts of other institutions have become more splintered into special
interests than they used to be. Can you explain that?
Duany: Yes. In many of the older books about planning that I
admire, you can’t tell the training of the writer; the books were so
generalized. In the post-World War II period, everything has become
specialized and separated. Among many other effects, this has created
problems for cities. Environmentalists work independently to lock up land
they insist be preserved. Traffic engineers struggle to preserve their
independent interests so their roads become little more than giant sewers
for efficient transport of traffic. Meanwhile, much of the public wishes,
“Can we make a community please?” One of my aims in my own field is to
encourage everybody to become a bit of a generalist again. You really have
to know about everything, because cities are too complex to break them apart
TAE: Is it possible today, while building coalitions to improve
how cities function, to have honest discussions about subjects like race?
Duany: Yes. My family is from Cuba, and one of the things that hit
me as I began debating these subjects is that you can’t get arrested and put
in jail in this country for what you say. You know, historically, this is
astounding. So this relatively new fear of saying the wrong thing—it’s
completely unjustified! Nothing will actually happen to you, okay? I’m now
very comfortable in taking the lead in prickly issues, and what I find is
that when hard realities are first stated, people are aghast and silent.
Then they come out of the woodwork and say things like, “It was time for
somebody to finally admit that.” The dangerous thing about political
correctness is that it introduces fear of one’s personal beliefs. That is
By the way, I know what it’s like to feel fear because of one’s
convictions, because I have visited Cuba. In the end, Cuba wears you out
because there is a palpable fear, which is manifested by people not saying
things. They stop talking. Fall silent. Obfuscate. And when I see that in
this country it drives me crazy. I have a real nose for it, and I resist,
because when you stop feeling free to say things, that’s the beginning of a
collapse of democracy.
TAE: What other experiences have influenced your views?
Duany: Well, you know, I lived in Franco’s Spain after I left
Cuba, and I saw that system in operation. It was in many ways wonderful,
especially for a child. Franco ran a capitalist but highly traditional
society. There was no crime, for example. Barcelona, where I lived, was a
perfectly safe city. So the freedom I had as a child to go anywhere I wanted
in that big city really impressed me. I don’t think I would be as confirmed
in the pleasures and assets of cities if I hadn’t been wandering around
Barcelona as a kid.
As designers, we try to duplicate that freedom in our communities. Good
design isn’t just about looking good; it has to function well in real life.
I like to see how children fare in our towns like Seaside in Florida and
Kentlands in Maryland. You can just let your child loose, because we’ve
created walkable streets. Children love the freedom of being able to get
around a large and complex and interesting place on their own little feet.
TAE: Is it fair to say that Duany’s Principle Number One insists
that any solver of social problems should start with what has evolved
through history and tradition, aiming to improve on that, rather than
starting over with a blank sheet of paper?
Duany: I’m very suspicious of invention. We’d better be at least a
little suspicious of anything brand new, of sharp breaks with the evolved
past, because on the scale on which we urban designers work—which is the
very fabric of a city—failure can be cataclysmic. When a community plan
fails, it’s essentially permanent. It can harm thousands of people over
generations. So you have to be very conservative in community design. There
are very good historical reasons to be skeptical.
TAE: Isn’t that same thing true in politics? If you dream up a
utopian society and force it on people through the power of the state, you
can hurt millions of people.
Duany: Millions of people, yeah. In some ways, though, bad
urbanism is even more permanent than a blundering socialist state. For one
thing, it tends to last longer. You can get rid of a dictator in a few
years, but when you pour concrete… For instance, Europe has found it
incredibly difficult to get rid of modernist housing that was built in the
1960s. The projects on the outskirts of Amsterdam are a disaster, and yet
they can’t really dump them. The investment is too big.
TAE: Soon they’ll have “historic” status, and then it will be
impossible to ever knock ’em down!
Duany: Seriously, that’s what the modernists are trying to do.
They’re very clever. What is very interesting about the Left is its
polemical agility. I really envy that. I admire it. People on the Left just
leap in. They’re incredibly aggressive. Even when the results are completely
dysfunctional, they remain strong advocates and defenders.
This may be a good place for us to clarify the terms “modernist” and
“traditionalist.” I actually consider myself a neo-traditionalist. I borrow
the best from both strains. The first time I heard people talk about
neo-traditionalism in this sense was during a 1988 lecture at the Stanford
Research Institute. There were slides, and this lady from SRI showed an
eighteenth-century fireplace like the one in this room [points], ornate and
beautiful, built into a traditional study much like this. And on the mantel
was a smart little black alarm clock. An electronic alarm clock. The
lecturer described this room as neo-traditional because it combined the
eighteenth-century fireplace—a marvelous fireplace that was beautiful, that
worked, that had workmanship—with a highly modern clock. The residents
didn’t choose an eighteenth-century clock, because such a device costs a
fortune, isn’t accurate, is noisy, and has to be wound up regularly. A
neo-traditionalist chooses whatever is best in the long run.
An ideological traditionalist, on the other hand, will buy an old house
and re-install a claw-foot bathtub. Even though that bathtub has a rounded
bottom you can’t stand on, and showering requires a tube of plastic curtain
that sticks to you. A horrible grotesque experience, right? Yet a pure
traditionalist will actually restore that. A modernist, meanwhile, actually
thinks it’s unethical to build eighteenth-century-style fireplaces;
literally unethical. Everything has to be modernist or you’re stylistically
So neo-traditionalism is more than just an attempt to revive something
that has lapsed. It’s a juncture between the new and the traditional. A
neo-traditionalist will buy an old house and put in a brand new kitchen and
a brand new bathroom. Because the house is best when it has old beauty and
craftsmanship, like this 1920s house we’re sitting in, but a 1920s kitchen
is no great triumph.
So what I try to achieve is a wise combination. The ability to reconcile
things is very important. You know, this compassionate conservatism
business—that is Bush’s way of reconciling two things often presented as
contradictory. Our society needs to encourage the best to rise, yet the
hard-headedness of the market can be very cruel to people. But if you can
get the mix right, you can grab the best of both worlds.
TAE: We see reconciliation as a goal of your design work in many
areas. In encouraging Americans to build towns and urban villages that are
functional as well as beautiful you seem to be trying to reconcile, for
instance, the natural with the man-made, the efficient with the pleasurable,
and, in particular, the rural with the urban. Aren’t Seaside and Kentlands
and your other towns ultimately attempts to find the right rural-urban
blend? And aren’t neighborhoods that mix rural and urban virtues also the
ideal of the American public?
Duany: They’re the American ideal. Although, more and more, there
are many American ideals. There are some people who want to live downtown
where the action is. They wanna live in a loft. Others like row houses.
Others need single-family houses. Yet others seek space in the country. I
insist that all of these should be available.
One problem is that fanatics like the rabid environmentalists only
recognize one or two of these options as legitimate. Environmentalists want
to green everything. Environmental law at this moment prevents the
construction of authentic urbanism. You couldn’t build any great traditional
city today if you apply the environmental laws on open space, separate uses,
and so forth. One of the things I’m trying to do is to get environmentalists
to accept that Americans have a right to the full range of habitats, from
country living to high-density urbanism, and that the laws must be different
in every type of environment. But environmentalists are so arrogant they
won’t even engage in this conversation.
TAE: One of the strengths of your movement, though, is that the
traditional small towns and close-knit neighborhoods that you champion
appeal to everyday people. When Gallup asks Americans where they’d most like
to live, only 13 percent say a city. The largest number by far, 37 percent,
say they want to live in a small town, while 25 percent say the suburbs.
Aren’t these preferences a fact that planners and regulators ought to work
with, instead of endlessly railing against the single family house and yard
Duany: Yes. What we’re actually trying to do is take the stuff
that is already being built out there anyway—the houses, the subdivisions,
the town homes, the garden apartment clusters, the office parks, the
shopping centers—and unify it into towns. The material is being laid out,
it’s just not assembled properly. It’s disaggregated. What we do is to
aggregate elements into functioning communities, and public tastes and the
market are behind us.
TAE: As a fan of close-knit small towns and neighborhoods, did you
take any interest in the famous small-town-versus-big-city split between
Bush and Gore voters?
Duany: I was in Peoria, Illinois all last week, leading a town
design brainstorming session. It’s different from the coasts. It’s
Small-town living is popular everywhere, but the way you present it has
to vary. For example, in the Midwest you talk about traditional community
values. On the East Coast you talk in terms of convenience: This way of
living is so much better for your kid; it will free you from being a soccer
mom imprisoned in your vehicle.
One of the things we had to do in Peoria was to beat back the “greening”
of the waterfront. The city’s waterfront was once industrial, and we want to
urbanize it. If you wanna keep your young people, we said, let’s build lofts
on that waterfront.
But environmentalists were saying “let’s have a park.” I pointed out that
the Illinois River is thick with parks for a hundred miles in each
direction. This is downtown Peoria, and this half mile of waterfront should
not be green but should be given over to humans. Humans have rights to the
river, too. What do you mean humans have rights to the river? Shouldn’t it
be green? No, I said, let’s use this bit for humans and leave the other
hundred miles for muskrats.
I study the environmental movement very hard, because I admire its
ability to prevail. Environmentalists do two things well that are very
important. One is they have a standardized vocabulary all over the country.
Their second strength is that their presentation is always technocratic or
pseudo-scientific. People agree in hushed tones that, of course, we must get
the “scientists” involved. You have to answer this with a technocratic
presentation of your own.
TAE: Isn’t there also a philosophical chore, though, in resisting
unyielding environmentalism? One of your articles includes the warning that
green ideologues “cannot believe that the work of humans has the capacity to
be part of nature.” In other words, it needs to be pointed out that people
aren’t a kind of pollution.
Duany: Yes, there are two interpretations of nature. One places
humanity apart from nature. The other says that humans are part of the
natural order. Environmentalists favor the first definition, and that’s the
source of many problems. I believe humans have rights to habitats that are
paved over. Humans have rights to places like London and New York.
Because most humans like to live in relatively high density, they
actually end up leaving most of nature alone. Not because some regulator
forbids people from building a house where they want—preventing people from
going where they want will never hold in a free society. Mandated urban
boundaries will never hold, because Americans have rights, including a right
to the pursuit of happiness. It’s actually market drive—wanting to live near
services instead of in the woods—that brings people to cities. Since
Americans have a right to live wherever they please, if we want to keep them
out of the wheat fields we’re going to have to make cities so attractive
that people don’t want to leave.
In any case, contrary to environmentalist claims and common perceptions,
America is not running out of land. You could give every single American
household one full acre of land, and it would only consume 4 percent of the
acreage in the continental U.S. Four percent. And that doesn’t include
TAE: You have lots of contact with the academic world. Your wife
is a college dean. Let’s turn to campus life for a minute. A couple of years
ago I got an e-mail message from you in which you argued that when Marxist
intellectuals realized, in the early decades of the 1900s, that they weren’t
getting any traction with the so-called “working class,” they decided to
congregate in universities instead. There, they churned out a Marxism that
was less economic and more cultural and social. It remained their aim to
undermine Western cultural traditions, just in a different way. Is that what
we witnessed over the last century in fields like art and architecture?
Duany: I think so. In all branches of academia, it’s now the
so-called “critical method”—which is Marxist jargon—that dominates. The
overall aim is indeed to undermine middle-class society. It’s very clever,
TAE: You and your wife were students at Princeton and Yale during
the ’60s and ’70s when these seeds of radicalism were first sprouting. What
was your reaction to the agitations on college campuses during that time?
Duany: Well, I remember distinctly when one big strike was going
on, I still went to the studio to work. At the same time—and this is another
example of cleverness on the Left—it was all made to be fun. Many of the
protests were just one big party. There was a strong festival aspect to what
was going on. I think there’s a residue of that in the memories of many
people who were growing up at that time.
I myself think fun is very important. I’m very much against the Calvinist
presentation. Though we as a nation do have an important Calvinist streak, I
think the idea that you have to suffer to do well has very little traction
in the United States at this moment. That’s why I speak of the pleasure of
walkable communities, of not being forced to drive a car, instead of
thundering about internal combustion engines. When we speak of an
environmentally sensitive house we speak of the comfort of cross
ventilation. We don’t insist you have to scrimp on energy.
That comes partly from lessons we learned in the ’60s about how to build
a mass movement. Most people then started out thinking “the cause” was a lot
of fun. Later, of course, radicalism became Calvinist. Now you can’t drink
coffee without getting a harangue.