Context - Fall 2015 - (Page 30)
Reflections on City Building
BY ALAN GREENBERGER
Some people are short, others are tall. Some people are dark and some
are light. Some are religious, others not. Some people are exquisitely
talented in one area while others have talents elsewhere. And to these
differences, cities afford common opportunities and challenges that
compel many of us to seek our lives as a community, together, in a
shared place. Why?
Americans have struggled with this question more than other nations
because we were created with the ethos of individual pursuits - life,
liberty and happiness - and a wealth of land to inhabit so that we could
choose to be together or choose to be far apart.
The choice to be together created American cities. Early on, this
choice was really one of necessity and survival. But it quickly evolved
into a real choice, one now typified by extended families living all across
the country or the world.
'Place' plays a powerful role in the choices we make. And though
'place' manifests itself as the built and natural worlds we inhabit, it more
powerfully shows itself through civic culture, a way of living, a unique
DNA. Some of us are born, raised and remain in the place of our birth,
absorbing and living its DNA intuitively without further instruction. But
many of us choose to find our pursuits in a different place from our
upbringing. And when we do, we more consciously adopt the DNA of
another locale, reinforce it, refine it and give it continued life.
I'm a born and bred New Yorker, a Brooklynite. But ultimately, I chose
Philadelphia. At first, it was a matter of a job. I graduated from architecture school in upstate New York, moved back to New York and couldn't
find a job during a recession. I decided to seek my professional life
elsewhere. Philadelphia was a place I had visited only once as a child,
but it was a place that was presented to me in college as where the
architectural world was happening.
And so, on a hot day in September 1974, I moved here, armed with
a few contacts of interesting people who were known to my friends
in New York. Forty-one years later, and eight years after becoming a
public official, I leave office with a deeper admiration and respect for
this extraordinary city - a DNA consisting of utopian ideals of how we
can live together, commercial opportunism and an historic city plan.
Within a month of being here, I felt at home, in no small measure
because of the amazing hospitality extended to me by people like Ruth
and Rick Snyderman, pioneers of the South Street Renaissance. But I also
30 FALL 2015 | context | AIA Philadelphia
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Context - Fall 2015
Re-Envisioning Philadelphia’s Industrial Spaces With Transatlantic Expertise
Fairmount Park: Philadelphia’s Past, Present and Future
The Philadelphia Region as America’s Next Big Energy Hub?
The Public Benefits of Private Planning: Eds, Meds, and the University City Renaissance
Index to Advertisers
Context - Fall 2015