Real Estate Protects Itself Against Greatness

”]Park Gate, Dubai, by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture].

BldgBlog alerts us to a symposium being held in Chicago about the lack of American architectural audacity – while it seems possible to chalk this up to an intellectual or philosophical lack, I’d like to suggest a more political-economic approach: the inability to build big (and interesting) in the US comes from the enshrinement of property rights as the driving force for urban development.

Landlords have a relatively narrow interest in rising rents for the properties they own – this interest fragments their interests – setting neighborhoods and cities against each other – and pits them against the majority of the city, who are either non-renting property owners or renters.  Collecting rents for profits also gives them some cash on hand to help run elections their way, cementing the superiority of landlords vis-a-vis the rest of the city until someone finds a way to upend them – the strategy I suggest if we want to create a new age of American architecture that uses space in a productive, democratic way, as well as one that lends itself to Dubai-style grandeur.

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