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Goldberger points to ‘public realm’ for architecture inspiration

New Yorker magazine's architecture critic Paul Goldberger called for a rebuilding of urban spaces. (Photo by Willie Carroll)

Renowned architecture critic Paul Goldberger spoke to a packed auditorium at the National Gallery of Canada Nov. 5 about the revitalization of urban spaces.

The New Yorker architecture critic and Pulitzer Prize winner was invited by Carleton’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism.

“I visited Carleton and it was exciting to see as innovative and wide-ranging an architecture program,” he said.

His lecture, “City Place and Cyberspace” engaged a packed hall of students and architectural professionals.

Goldberger’s lecture discussed the public realm.

“The public realm is what cities are, it is what cities bring civilization that we have no other way of getting,” Goldberger said. “To take the public realm as a starting point for planning is to recognize that it is the thing that has been threatened, more than almost any other urban quality.”

“If we don’t successfully rebuild the public realm, if we don’t heal the urban wound, then nothing else we do in this city will have very much effect,” he said.

Goldberger also spoke on the idea of place, community, the effect of technology, and the role of the city in a world in which digital media is such a big part of the way in which we interact with each other.

“Technology has always determined the kind of places we build,” Goldberger said. “Technology brought us the automobile, which brought us sprawl and made the city spread out. Which made the most important gift that the city gives us, the gift of community, the gift of physical closeness, much more difficult to achieve.”

His lecture argued for centralization of urban space and re-creating traditional physical closeness to reinvigorate public spaces in cities.

Fourth-year architecture design student Nicholas Leblanc said he found the architectural urban design aspects of the lecture most interesting.

“It provokes thought on when I am designing my buildings and how my building would help or even facilitate how people came together within the city,” he said.

Fourth-year urbanism architecture student Camille Baello said, “The lecture was basically my studio wrapped up in a lecture. So I thought it was very relevant to what I am learning right now.”

“His lecture gave me a different perspective,” Baello said.

“I learned to take into consideration technology and how technology is the ‘stone’ of our generation in terms of design, and we have to take that into so much consideration while we’re thinking about what we’re going to design and how we’re going to design it.”

Goldberger said he enjoyed speaking to a packed hall.

“I loved the fact that it was a full house. My favourite talks are always when there are interesting engaged questions,” he said.

Although Goldberger said this is a rather challenging time for architecture, its also an exciting time for architechtural urbanism.

“The value system that drives our urban system today is much better. The challenge is it is also a difficult economic time. If you can make your way through it and survive it’s a very interesting and wonderful profession.”

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