Walking along First Avenue almost daily, I hate the ugly expanse of concrete and glass being unveiled opposite the Seattle Art Museum, and so does

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Best New Urban Scold

Dan Bertolet

Walking along First Avenue almost daily, I hate the ugly expanse of concrete and glass being unveiled opposite the Seattle Art Museum, and so does Dan Bertolet. That's why I was happy to read him trashing the new Four Seasons hotel-condo, and those who would defend its gilded hostility to the street, on his invaluable blog, Hugeasscity.com. When it comes to issues of density, transit, townhouse design, building setbacks, condo boosterism, and those who purport to write knowledgeably about architecture, it's not enough to praise the good. You've got to dis the bad. And Bertolet does both, inviting his commenters to weigh the complexities of zoning and the tradeoffs of urban planning without flaming or polemics. There's no prevailing orthodoxy in Bertolet's view of the city. Density is desirable, but not at the expense of nonconforming, non-profitable oddball spaces. Cars are selfish and destructive to the city, but the people behind the wheel aren't automatically assumed to be jerks. Jane Jacobs and Portland's Pearl District are all very well and fine, but not every prior model of civic design can be overlaid onto an existing city. Is the Department of Planning and Development doing a great job of balancing our growth, congestion, shortage of affordable housing, and—relative to other American cities—wealth? No. Should it adapt every criticism from Bertolet? Of course not. But it's a nice dynamic to have.—Brian Miller

 
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