“It is hardly possible to expect that many really different types of dwellings or their buildings can be added at any one time. To think they can be is wishful thinking. There are fashions in building. Behind the fashions lie economic and technological reasons, and these fashions exclude all but a few genuinely different possibilities in city dwelling construction at any one time.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities page 216.
A lot of people complain about "cookie-cutter" architecture in Minneapolis. French chateaus are cookie-cutter. Gothic cathedrals are cookie-cutter. Richardsonian Romanesque buildings are cookie-cutter. Being cookie-cutter per se isn’t bad, because at any given time in any given culture, there were prevailing architectural trends.
Some cookie-cutter things are bad, but not simply because they’re cookie-cutter. In the ’90s and ’00s, the McMansion was very popular. The economic causes of this trend were:
- expensive freeway projects that paved over the graves of urban working-class and minority neighborhoods to provide quick and easy commutes for citizens who happened to be whiter and wealthier,
- single-use zoning and mortgage regulations that made it easy to get money to build subdivisions, and
- the reverberations of explicitly racist housing policies.
Some effects of this trend are:
- higher demand for these underfunded freeways,
- car-dependent landscapes (and concomitant decline in walking and biking), and
- ecological disaster.
McMansions are cookie-cutter. New apartments are cookie-cutter. That doesn’t mean they’re both bad.
Detroit, before and after a freeway. I’d love to see similar photos of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“A bike lane isn’t just a physical thing — it’s a social construct. Like money, it only matters because we all act like it does. Bike lanes serve their purpose if and only if street-users agree that these striped strips of pavement are dedicated for people on bicycles. Not for parking, not for snow storage, not for walking, not for corner-cutting cars, but for bikes. The fading of the paint, and the cause of the fading, erodes this foundation. A torrent of cars erases confidence in the bike lane, not just the paint.”