(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 337: Putting City Character and Authenticity in Context
This week we’re joined once again by author Chuck Wolfe to talk about his book Sustaining a City’s Culture and Character. We talk about sustainable travel and the “character” and “authenticity” of places. We also talk in detail about the importance of context when considering planning for the future.
For the full (unedited for now) podcast, hop below the fold.
Jeff Wood (2m 4s):
Well, Chuck Wolf, welcome back to the Talking Headways podcast.
Chuck Wolfe (2m 23s):
It’s been what? Four years. Yeah,
Jeff Wood (2m 26s):
It’s a, it’s been four years. April of 2017. I believe this was when the episode one 38 came out. So we’re now we just released three 35 this morning and yeah, we started in 2013. So we’ve been, you know, pandemics or not. We’re still going strong. I appreciate that for sure. But yes, it gives you more time to like get on the horn and talk with people and read more books and get involved a little bit more before we get started, though. Can you tell the listeners who might not have listened to episode one 38 a little bit about yourself?
Chuck Wolfe (2m 59s):
Well, I’m in a different person than I was in episode one 38, I guess the short story. I think that is material to our chat today is that I am a recovering lawyer now or a recovering American lawyer who lives in the United Kingdom. And I’ve lived here for three and a half years. I live in a town called Newbury about 45 miles West of the London. And really the reason I’m here has to do with how you and many others helped advance a whole other angle of what I do after I wrote my second book, I’m seeing the better the city then morphed into this third book that I think we’re going to talk about today.
Chuck Wolfe (3m 41s):
But the short story is I’m a former American lawyer. Now, I guess it’s a mixture of urban, of some consultant and visiting scholar in Sweden and always material to my writing and chats are the, the sun of a American planning, a professor of some note back in the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, back on a land that time forgot. I love you or reading
Jeff Wood (4m 4s):
Your books because I get some history about you and this book has no, no exception. The building where the Indian restaurant was the member of memories from those types of things. And you take it with you. And it’s, it’s really fascinating to see that I’m curious, you know, going to Europe, how you’ve changed from maybe when you were in Seattle.
Chuck Wolfe (4m 22s):
Wow, that’s an interesting question. I probably haven’t totally figured out the answer to yet, but I was very, very, very fortunate as a youngster to be able to travel with the father who I referenced. And as I think I mentioned in episode one 38, I am sort of an urbanist or by osmosis kind of a person. And therefore I can not separate the personal from the professional and the academic when it comes to the topic of urban planning. Hence I think I’m just on an extended new and improved journey of what I was always on. And I got distracted by a legal career that as I think I told the story last time began to erode in 2009 when I started writing about cities.
Chuck Wolfe (5m 9s):
And yeah, it’s intrinsic. I think I’ve discovered that if I write about an urban ism topic, if I write it, the, you know, these books, they sort of, I mean, or not, I don’t mean it a self-indulgent way. They’d sort of parallel by a personal journey. And so if I’m beginning to think about a new way of looking at cities, I have to reflect back on where I’ve been, just as I’ll reflect back on how practice is morphine to reflect new trans or academia is picking up a new focus on X, Y, or Z.
Jeff Wood (5m 43s):
The question is like, what, what have you learned from a book one to book three? And, you know, I think I wrote down, you know, did you not learn your lesson the first two times?
Chuck Wolfe (5m 53s):
Yeah. Yeah. For your using a dangerous, your using a dangerous or learn turned into an operative acronym for the method that I’m suggesting might help us in these and they stopped. But the quick evolution of that, what I now call the trilogy is that, you know, urban ism without effort, which was originally in a book from Island press of, what’s actually a republished in 2019 second edition, that has a very simple premise. And that is before we go forward, we need to understand to coin a phrase who we really are and the fundamental relationships between people and where they live.
Chuck Wolfe (6m 34s):
We need to rediscover those, go back to first principles before we adopt the flavor of the day of placemaking or, you know, a tactical urbanism some or this, or, or that, which are all trends that I support, but can be a little bit of jocular or about sometimes we need to really go back to the basics. And so what I did there is set out some fundamental principles. And then I also came up with this tool called the urban diary. And for me at that time, it was a very photo centric because kind of a manic about cameras and taking photos and so on and so forth, seeing the, a better city which came or four years later, what’s the implementation book, how to do or what the diaries, how to understand the city, how maybe even to make these urban diaries advocates C or a supplemental regulatory tools to improve the dialogue about urban change.
Chuck Wolfe (7m 29s):
And then things really started happening as I alluded to before, because that book got a fair amount of play and episode one 38, it would be on it. I ended up going to several American cities and then I always on a inadvertently a 14 talk eight city tour in Australia. After the last time I saw you in San Francisco, the June of 2017, that fall a, you know, his in Australia for a month. And then I got a gig in Sweden that December, and then I got a bright opportunity and Australia the following summer. And at the same time, my wife had gotten a great opportunity here and the London area, I was so all over the place.
Chuck Wolfe (8m 15s):
It made more sense for me to be here and to sort of wind down the law of practice. And what I learned was that seeing the better city was a bit to, or overly too dimensional their eye focused on the physical environment or what one sees, sort of woke up through the process of dealing with the realities of talking about the book and being repetitively interviewed about the book and being sort of the outside expert. It could be easily resented. I learned a lot of things about access to technology about challenged populations who could not necessarily easily follow suit will have the prescriptions from that book about people who can see and who need other ways of articulating they’re understanding of the city.
Chuck Wolfe (9m 4s):
And so it led to the third book as a, essentially a research project during my time in Sweden, that affiliation, I still have a few more months, but really looked at the city’s far more comprehensively and interdisciplinarily. And the urban diary became the urban diary plus plus plus, and the lens and method for seeing the, a better city look explored, narrate and summarize became the learn method of sustaining the city’s culture and character or a new book, meaning look, engage, assess, review, and negotiate. And so what you’re hearing is a sort of a richness that is reflective of multicultural exposures on a wide range of interactions with people from different places.
Chuck Wolfe (9m 55s):
I would say a realization of how big the world really is and how aided by the pandemic, how little we all might matter in the end. And so a lot’s happened between the books. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (10m 9s):
A lot of how we maybe don’t matter, but also how a little, maybe we don’t know or understand about different places. I imagine. I mean, you talked about earlier being a little self-indulgent. I mentioned on the podcast before that I’d love to go to a number of different cities around the world and live there for a year. And that would’ve required me to be a, a thousand years old. I imagine which it’d be a little bit of a self-indulgent, but to immerse yourself in that place so that you actually get to live in the place, not just visit the place. And I think that comes across in your book a little bit in terms of, you know, the discussions about tourism and authenticity and all those things.
Chuck Wolfe (10m 44s):
Yeah. I think that’s right, because all kidding aside, what, what really happened is I realized how well now I maybe a little bit of intolerant when the American tourists, the return to London, and they don’t want to see all of the interesting, cool stuff that I’ve learned. They want to go to a pub and they want to go to the tower of London and they want to go to the landmarks and so on and so forth. Well, again, I’m being tongue in cheek because I realized how little I do and how literally the understanding of a place and once a relationship to it. His so conditioned by my own and many others, a magic word context, and this new book as Matthew Carmona, who’s a leading urban design academic university college at one.
Chuck Wolfe (11m 31s):
And he very kindly said that this is a book about context. Is that a thoughtful book about contexts? And so on agreeing absolutely. Or with what you set on, learn tons about context, perspective, the importance of a variety of voices and how we indulge in a lot of fantasies with our expectations, for what places are and could be. I think if I were to be self-indulgent, I would say a one part of the book that I’m particularly grateful I came up with before the pandemic says so many words, and I tried to make it a little bit lyrical.
Chuck Wolfe (12m 12s):
Imagine if the world around you disappeared and the places with which you were so familiar, suddenly went away, your roots are, you know, don’t travel or gone the hell, would you reinvent? You know, certainly you wouldn’t reinvent the Athens of ancient Greece. You would reinvent James Joyce’s Dublin, what would you do? And of course, then the piton debit cap and I thought, wow, I’m onto something.
Jeff Wood (12m 38s):
Well, what’d you do? Or what have you done?
Chuck Wolfe (12m 43s):
I’ve immersed because of the pandemic, both in London and hearing Newberry. And I’m sure I’ve used my driver or a photography, but I’ve also tried to put my money where my mouth is and test out this learn method, which is a, you know, learn. And the context keys have learned in a sense, they’re a provocation, they’re a there or action forcing approaches to really understanding a place. And I’ve tried to do that. And for instance, last week, my wife and I took a week off because May 17th was a magical day in England. That was the most significant level of reopening from a lockdown yet from a third lockdown here.
Chuck Wolfe (13m 28s):
And so suddenly the indoor pubs and hotels were up. And so we live 45 miles from London. We also live about 60 miles from Bristol. And we walked West on the candidate in Avon canal, took about six or seven days doing so and ended up at Bristol and looking hard at Bristol, which I heard a lot about, but I’d never actually been there. I started thinking actually about why I’m interested in what I’m interested in and how with respect to a particular redevelopment in a very prominent area of town that’s slated to regenerate or an area that was originally bombed out of a world war II to the developers are doing a, a, a same old redevelopment approach that looked so much like everywhere else.
Chuck Wolfe (14m 22s):
And I really was able to think critically about what I saw and also hypothesize some of the cultural issues that were inherent in what was planned and how it was, they were purporting to hear for the public. And they had the 3d visualization, which includes the bike shops and the greening and the restored bombed out church. And I realized that I was looking at things somewhat like I, with respect to what I’m preaching, if it can be called that. And so that’s what I’ve done. I’ve tried really hard to use this time to think about what a really trying to do with all of this or why it matters and really why I care that people look more comprehensively than just take the easiest way out of the conundrum of urban change.
Jeff Wood (15m 17s):
And it’s interesting to talk about change and talk about places that kind of restructure themselves the same way, I guess, globally. And, you know, we did an audio book of a Freeman on Wednesday town planning and practice. We turned it into an audio book, and it’s interesting to see that some of the same issues that are going on then in 1909 and even previous are our going on now. I mean, he talks about the change of a vernacular because of the railroads and you don’t have the same design anymore because you can get materials from anywhere. And that is just gone global. It feels like in the last so many years, when you talk about this in the book to a certain extent, and you mentioned the umbrellas project, which is something that’s kind of similar in that way, that is a transformative, is it something that social media is changing about the world?
Jeff Wood (16m 1s):
I’m curious what makes vernacular and the introduction of social media, what makes things so hard to separate these days from that kind of that feeling of culture have a local place versus a global culture?
Chuck Wolfe (16m 14s):
Well, you know, I think you’re right. Social media and all of the globalism trends certainly play their part in being originally a Seattle boy. When I look around and see Starbucks, Costco, the Boeing, Microsoft, or Amazon, as they say it here, the Amazon, I mean, c’mon, you know, it, it’s so apparent that you know, all of the truisms about connectedness are undeniable, so its hard, but I can tell you that living here and I do talk about a lot of this in the book. And I, I riff, as I recall, I riff about maybe the taste of food or some spellings or, or, or UK keyboard versus a, an American keyboard, your neighborhood.
Chuck Wolfe (17m 1s):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you don’t even know that. I know that I speak differently than I used to. I hadn’t done CA more because I’ve been locked down here for a year and a half. I mean, I, I haven’t talked to that many Americans, some, so, you know, one develops, not just me one develop some, you know, survival skills, if you will. So that people don’t think you’re an American tourists. Right. You know, you and I just did it. I just did it. Right, right. I mean, that’s a way of interacting here that a conversational tone. And that also asks a question, which I find very alluring quite honestly. So it’s something I’ve adopted, there’s all these subtleties.
Chuck Wolfe (17m 43s):
And that’s what the book is trying to get at. Not necessarily it’s a, it’s a linguist or a, you know, or his, an ethnography and so on and so forth. But I can assure you, there was still many differences are one of my big heroes in the book is where the great Universalist, Plomin the handyman, who is a guy from Bulgaria who did some weekend work. He came in when we were still living in a flat, before we bought our house, we were still living in a flat and a London. He came in as with one of the companies that the landlord used to fix something. And I had a command and Moonlight for a a hundred pounds. He paid it a sealing or something like that, the landlord or a fuse today.
Chuck Wolfe (18m 23s):
And, you know, at the end he said, so do you like it here? Cause he knew I wasn’t from England originally. And I said, Oh yeah, you know, how about you? Do you like it here? Where are you from? And he said, Bulgaria on. I said, Oh, well a, well, you know, what are you think? And he goes, well, you know, everywhere, it’s the same, but it’s just different things are better or different things are worse. You know, some places the food is better. Some places transport, a psychology here is better. Some, I looked at him and I said, could you repeat that? That’s absolutely brilliant. And so I do refer to him twice because he really nailed it. And I probably reminded me of those original urban ism without effort days.
Chuck Wolfe (19m 7s):
You know what I was trying to argue for a certain simplicity before we go forward. But it is hard. I mean, your point is very well taken that. I mean, I feel, I feel like I’m indulging in just cliche, but we’re more connected than ever and so on and so forth, but even looking at the roots out of the pandemic and how the U S is responding and how the UK has responded after learning the hard way I’m going to Seattle and Portland for the first time, since February 20, 20, and two weeks, I’m really not supposed to yet here. The only reason I can do it is because I’m an American citizen, the U S S on the Amber list.
Chuck Wolfe (19m 49s):
I hate to tell you how many COVID tests I just ordered, even though a double jab is a say, here I fall or things back home pretty regularly. And there’s a lots of differences in the world. Still the, some good, some not so good, some understandable some or not understandable. There is a brilliant peace early in a pandemic written. And the times of London, which I do refer to it in the book where David are on a Ridge, one of the columnists said, the one thing that’s going to come from this. And this was in the first two weeks. He said that young people as a whole, or gonna re realize how interconnected the world really, really is.
Chuck Wolfe (20m 32s):
And, you know, that’s, that certainly happened. But the question now after sort of being marginalized as individuals, what role could we play coming out of this begins to, you know, bring back this issue about, well, what is the role of experience as opposed to the inevitability of things? And I think that’s really important. It’s, I mean, I wrote a lot of blog pieces last summer about emerging from the pandemic and bicycling streets in a fresco dining. And you know, all of the things we’ve all written about how, Oh, yes, the pandemic has accelerated trends that we’re already under the way on working for and so on and so forth.
Chuck Wolfe (21m 15s):
You know, that’s really not a whole picture. Then there’s a second tier of what’s going to happen. Two are high streets are the main streets and the American part of that. So, well, that gets a little more sophisticated. You know, we can fill empty spots with commercial space can become housing. If we change the rules, you know, the same stuff that’s going on anyway. But then it gets really interesting with stories like the one I tell and the book like the old coven gardens, fruit stall, Covent garden now being essentially a touristic theme park, you know, a guy who actually sold fruit when coven garden was the vegetable market, a fruit and vegetable Margaret of London, he went through, he went from that stall to five brick and mortar.
Chuck Wolfe (22m 0s):
If you will, food stalls, the various tube stops to a realization that that wasn’t making money anymore. So they, they went all online and the operate out of a warehouse and a rail art, and they carry with them the same customer service spirit that they always did. They are still active and the communities were, they were once fiscally located. If that’s the story of what’s going on in the world, I think that it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s things, blend things, more things change. The physical environment reflects that. But there’s these undercurrents that are fascinating, that are, you know, essentially not readily visible until you are located and a place long enough to understand.
Chuck Wolfe (22m 51s):
And I think the point I make in that section, the, as well bobtail fruit, his it’s called, you know, some tourists would think that’s a story of failure because they don’t have a stall in the touristically oriented borough market in Southern, you know, and it’s like, no, they actually are doing quite well. And there’s still the same family. And by the way, I never would have known there’s a story, unless I totally immersed by doing the work to tell the story of the, we are Waterloo business improvement district. I met them in that context. And so, you know, I don’t always feel, and it maybe just the pandemic, I don’t always feel that people are interested enough in those types of stories.
Chuck Wolfe (23m 34s):
I think the vernacular is harder to find. That’s why, I guess I felt the need to help people try and figure it out.
Jeff Wood (23m 41s):
Yeah. It’s so interesting. I mean, here, living in San Francisco, I mean, you have a, a vernacular, but that came from Victoria at a time, right. The timeframes. And it makes me think of something that I thought of kind of consistently while reading the book is that, you know, we, we create these places and some of these places have been around for 500 years. Some of them have been around for a thousand years. Some of them have been around for less than 50 years. And so what is what his authenticity in each of those different timeframes, right. How does that change over time?
Chuck Wolfe (24m 14s):
Right. That’s where context comes into it too. Yeah. But I, as you know, because you’ve been kind enough to read the book, I just trash on those words, like authenticity, without knowing what they mean and a character. I reference a lot to people before me who point to character sort of an assemblage of many different things, character actually being this holistic concept. But some people think it’s only architecture. Some people think it’s only a cultural attribute by a wax poetic and a w and riff on that a lot, try and help people take these words apart. ’cause when a downtown business or organization and the United States talks about creating authentic downtowns to foster economic resilience.
Chuck Wolfe (25m 0s):
And then they list attributes that really are not about authenticity at all, or about livable places. You know, I came to realize that if one wants to be politically unpopular and, you know, perhaps people should be called out on that lack of critical thinking. And I did some or
Jeff Wood (25m 24s):
I, yeah. I noticed that you were upset with the list, the list they got made for downtowns.
Chuck Wolfe (25m 29s):
Yeah. I was upset with a list and, you know, I think that it’s only through, you know, maybe I’m just being a bit impetuous because per my earlier answer, there’s so much, I’ve learned about what I thought was authentic. And then on, I realize it’s not authentic at all. And as you know, the book, or I start out with some pretty wild premises, like talking about the Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker street and there it is, you know, there’s where Sherlock Holmes lived. So it sure it looks authentic and all that. Well, of course it never existed. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (26m 2s):
Platform nine, nine and three quarters.
Chuck Wolfe (26m 4s):
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. All of the things that people flock to see that in one sense didn’t even ever exist, but you see, I think another way I’ve changed, it’s the people I hang out with. And so I’ve learned an awful lot from people who are from different professions from artists, you know, the futurists, you know, a quiz I mystics, you know, people who’ve said that, you know, a place of real, if you can imagine it, it’s like, wow. You know, that’s the same person who said to me, why a sustainability, something we should aspire to, if we’re only sustained the mediocre, you know, and my mouth dropped.
Chuck Wolfe (26m 47s):
So again, these are the pieces of learning that I’ve achieved by taking myself out of my comfort zone. And it hasn’t all been much fun. I assure you. Yeah. Are you talking
Jeff Wood (26m 59s):
About authenticity? One of the interesting parts is also as you kept bringing up the chink with Tara and I was there in 2009, partially because, you know, just North of there is a place where in part of my family is from, and so we went to go to the village in the Hills where my family came from. And so we, you know, we thought the and I, and I really liked the place, but it is something that I worry about. And you discuss this about over tourism and tourism, a places that everybody wants to see. And so what does that mean? Do, do congestion price, the tourist area, or do you try to get people to go other places that maybe aren’t as well traveled by tourists? It’s an interesting kind of a conundrum. It’s an amazingly beautiful place.
Jeff Wood (27m 40s):
And it, for me, it’s a little bit of a connection to, you know, my ancestry. Yeah. But it’s dangerous
Chuck Wolfe (27m 46s):
By the way. I’m not too far from, there was the umbrella sky, project umbrellas and an Italian Hilltown that you, you know, one could say, what the heck are these doing here out of context? Or is this a good thing for this little artisinal street in this Hilltown, that’s a whey interesting without his umbrella. Yeah. I mean, talk about the chink or Kara at, and I think all three of my books, just because of the issues of race and in chapter four, I think, or I do talk about global the local and so on and so forth. That that would be one place that I would raise such issues and borrow ideas from others about how to create SLO colorism or, or, you know, forms of tourism that honor the intrinsic nature of the place, or without overdoing them.
Chuck Wolfe (28m 40s):
That is something that fortunately hasn’t been a problem the last year and a half, but will soon be a problem again, don’t kid yourself. And I think as places like Venice look hard at whether they really want to be what they were, the question becomes how to create experiences, maybe for people that aren’t quite so driven by fantasy, but then are more consistent with what the day to day might really be in making that day-to-day life. The more interest of tourists ’cause some of the studies of over tourism will tell you that you can make a list of those places, that exhibit the symptoms. And there’s a vast swath of under a visited places.
Chuck Wolfe (29m 21s):
So the seam that had every interesting attribute that people think they’re going to find by going to Prague fantasy Barcelona and the usual a bucket list. I mean, it’s not that simple, but the bucket lists, I think R are very dangerous because they create some of the sustainability issues we’re dealing with. And if only people would realize that there are so many places that I believe or more interesting, if one looks a little bit deeper,
Jeff Wood (29m 54s):
No one of my favorite things, when, whenever my family and I go traveling, we go maybe a week, once every three years or four years or so. And generally it’s the Western Europe, but one of the things that I love his, the collagen guide, I think its some British, a guide book makers. And I don’t know if they make them anymore. Maybe they are limited in their printing. But when we went to Italy, we went to the Italian Alps, we went to Turin, we went to Milan, we went to Alba and brah, we went to the, with Matera. It was a quite a trip and I had never been to Florence and I’d never been to Rome on anything like that, but this is kind of like a family type of, you know, check it out, see kind of all the places and Northern Italy where you are family might of come from.
Jeff Wood (30m 34s):
And a, I found the kiddos on guides. We are really valuable in that if you studied them, if you went deep into them, you could find things like harp museums that maybe five people went to a day and you could find the place where they, so the, the, the lore for the polio Sienna, we went there. It’s actually just North of the chink Matera and this little old lady let us in to the sewing room and showed us how they, they made them and nobody else had come probably that day and maybe nobody else would have come the next day. It just, it was just a, a, a house on a, on the side of a, a road. And so, you know, those experiences, I think make travel interesting, but it also, you have to do more work to get there.
Jeff Wood (31m 14s):
And I think it’s hard for people to do that work when there’s already been work done Rick Steves or otherwise. And I love Rick Steves and he’s, you know, a Seattleite. Yeah. But there’s so much to uncover in places that maybe we haven’t, we haven’t uncovered.
Chuck Wolfe (31m 28s):
Right. I mean, we just experienced that walking though, this particular canal I mentioned, I mean, there are some amazing places that we saw just because the Cicerone, which is a walking guide company, the guy who wrote the Cicerone book or some of the things he noted along the way, or just a fascinating if you’ve ever watched, for instance, the last kingdom, which was, you know, the story of offer the grade and you know, essentially that a lot, you know, the asking of them other than the, the Danes, you know, the, the, the King of West Texas and so on, there was a rise called a, a tub where he and his brother rendezvous to go North to fight the Danes and eight 79, you know, and we walk by the canal when you see this thing.
Chuck Wolfe (32m 13s):
But it’s just, it’s pretty incredible. I mean, I think that’s authentic. Yeah. But, but speaking of right, Steve, two stories, one, or, you know, the people accused him is being a single handedly, responsible of turning or knots. I’m a chink Matera into a shell of what it was, would, you know, rims, the what and, you know, Airbnbs and so on and so forth because he popularized a chink or whatever. And he, his books, I knew him a little bit from his early days at the university of Washington, given teaching a course that they experimental college and I won’t. And I saw him speak to some years later and I asked him about polio, you know, the heel and the boot in Italy, where I had recently spent some time he spent no time or whatsoever.
Chuck Wolfe (33m 4s):
And on that at the time was kind of a burgeoning, one of the early slow travel places where you go work on a farm for your week and that kind of thing. But it was a, it was already beating or see a distinction between the more customer or a form of tourism and a new form of tourism that is sustainable. And the sense of taking the assets have a place and, and working with them to gain interest from outside, but also enhance what the region is is known for. And I think that whole movement, as I say, in the book has a lot to offer for urban neighborhoods in these times when we’re trying to figure out how to co-create meaning bottom-up and top-down, you know, solutions.
Chuck Wolfe (33m 50s):
Jeff Wood (33m 50s):
And I don’t want to be too hard on Rick Steves. I enjoy his, his work on PBS. I enjoy learning about places like his, his trip to a ran was infinitely fascinating. And it’s a place that really is not a lot of Americans can, can go to. But, you know, it’s interesting to think about the ways in which certain promotions can push people to go a certain directions.
Chuck Wolfe (34m 12s):
Yeah. And I mean, you know, there are so many examples that we could talk about a, about things that became very successful that ended up because of their economic consequences often, or, you know, the bringing of a higher flow have people ended up bleeding. Some people that believe the place had been ruined. And, you know, I spend some part of chapter four telling me the Amazon story and how the incentive’s created the, you know, the competition of a couple of years ago and so on and so forth. And I think the reason that’s important for a discussion about sustaining the culture and character of a city or a sustaining city life in an inclusive way is that obviously in the end, it often comes back to economic opportunity for companies and people who need income to survive.
Chuck Wolfe (35m 9s):
And so the question is, well, how does one overcome a juggernaut that’s created by opportunity? Another thing that I learned and getting the opportunity to speak about these books and so on his, you know, I had an experience which I talk about it in the book in Portugal, about two years ago, where I was speaking and some towns and the Portuguese, the interior, they’re losing their youth to Lisbon and Porto. And they are an absolute cultural architectural Mecca has, but they needed jobs to keep their young people.
Chuck Wolfe (35m 49s):
You know, they, they, sometimes this is the gross over a, a generalization, but lets just say based or based on the topic or discussing, they will do things without remembering who they are. And I literally had the opportunity on stage to very much sympathize with the guy, the audience who is criticizing some technology company’s speakers about, you know, the installation of essentially 5g technology or, or, or creating a smart cities to help these places or retain their youth with the, with many technological opportunities. But there was a guide in the audience that said, you know, how dare you come here and talk about all these standard issue things without remembering our history and who we are and so on and so forth.
Chuck Wolfe (36m 37s):
And then he looked at me and he said, how dare you talk about things that have worked in the United States? You know, that you were saying would work here. And I kind of grabbed the microphone on. And I said, you know what, you’re absolutely right. I think you misunderstand me. I didn’t say that at all. And I turned to these technology guys and I said, you’re sounding like a couple of Americans, you know, or this is, this is a Portugal, this is a, this is crazy. You cannot operate without reference to your context. And so that led to this book, the reason I bring it up because I wrote the article on planet us and forget smart, we need context cities. That was the beginning of this book.
Jeff Wood (37m 19s):
You talk a lot about the Senator of change and, and preservation as a kind of a blending or where did that idea for his hit U the blending discussion?
Chuck Wolfe (37m 27s):
Oh, well I think it first hit me in noticing the differences between a traditional American historic preservation battle, which is usually about tearing down a building or not for a new development. And then here were hurricanes, as it’s called here is seen as a far more well immersive a undertaking because it’s not as simple as one building and whether the building comes down or not, it’s a question of blending new development with a strong sense of history or remaining older buildings. And it is a blend to determine what that blends you’d be as a very contextual undertaking, just like anywhere or some people do it very well.
Chuck Wolfe (38m 16s):
Some people do it an absolute. And here a for instance, I was just talking about this, cause I was just on a podcast here where a fairly well-known nitch develop or any Slyman to a, somewhat of an inspiration for some parts of the book. And she had me on her podcast or which was very, and I reminded her how valuable she’d been because she talked about rebuilding at scale, a redeveloping at scale, using indigenous architects, if you will, who are some simpatico with the community who understood the importance of picking up the curve in the street, a blended approach to height compatible, building materials, but not an absolute devotion to London brick.
Chuck Wolfe (39m 1s):
In other words, preserving the essence, the look and feel without replicating. And it’s kind of funny because, you know, for projects, you know, a road resurfaces and so on that, do you say a traditional brick often that brick is from China. It’s no longer from Wales, England or Scotland, you know, number one and number two, it goes to that strong sense of history that exists here. And so the blending, I mean, it has, it almost has to blend unless something has been a truly destroyed and they’re are so many factors that go into that blending that aren’t just architectural.
Chuck Wolfe (39m 44s):
It can be an historic event. It can be, you know, a piece of the landscape, it can be many, many things. And so the idea of heritage and so on and so forth, it’s just so much more multifaceted than sometimes we see in the United States. So that’s how I first got deeply into the issue of bland. Also my tendency to immerse and think too much about some things and say, it’s not black and white. It’s not that simple. There’s a shade of gray hair. And that fits also the blend fits would the bottom up top down resolution of land use really many places in the world.
Chuck Wolfe (40m 26s):
Now it’s a burgeoning movement.
Jeff Wood (40m 28s):
So check a focused on a, find the book, where can they find it
Chuck Wolfe (40m 32s):
Well? And the United States, it’s easily obtainable on amazon.com and both hard bound and Kendall forum. And then it’s also orderable from the publisher directly Robin and a little field. I can get everyone on a 30% discount code, which I will provide to you and you can put in the show notes.
Jeff Wood (40m 56s):
Awesome. We also tell folks to go to a bookshop.org and you can support your local bookshop if you don’t get a chance to go in.
Chuck Wolfe (41m 4s):
Yes, absolutely. A book shop.org. We also pushed that over here and the UK, there may be a temporary on a Villa availability monacre because the distributor is having to re re re stocking right now as a data of recording, but bookshop in the bounds prominent local independents can at a minimum order from a publisher. And
Jeff Wood (41m 28s):
The book is sustaining a city’s culture and character principles and best practices. Chuck, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate
Chuck Wolfe (41m 36s):
No, it’s a pleasure to come back again. So very cool