The Epic Generation: From the Garden to the City

“You know I always wanted to pretend that I was an architect.” – George Costanza, Seinfeld

Nathan Norris recently wrote an article entitled, “Why Generation Y is Causing the Great Migration of the 21st Century” about ‘under 30’s’ moving into the cities and driving less – the new migration into urban spaces. Norris writes, “At the same time, television shifted from glorifying the surburban lifestyle in the 1960’s and 1970’s (e.g., Leave it to Beaver and the Brady Bunch) to glorifying the urban lifestyle in the 1990’s (e.g., Seinfeld and Friends). These cultural changes have pushed Generation Y to look for more adventure than previous generations, and they are less fearful of cities than previous generations.”

I forwarded it to a friend and he wrote, “Art (used loosely here) imitating life or vice versa?”

I wrote that I’ve been watching the TEDtalks “Building Wonder” curated channel on Netflix, which is mostly about architecture and it’s seemed to correlate with conversations I’ve had with him (in the past and recently) about the desire to be part of a community like Bloomington, Broad Ripple, or Nora. We sort of had that community in high school, now that I think about it, with Benjamin’s Coffee House or even to a small extent at Heiskell’s Restaurant (at the height of our takeover). We also had it at church and at college and we also had it for a time in Daleville (before the breakup began). Community is what you make of it – but physical constraints help.

This “art” reference he mentioned made me wonder if I haven’t been yearning after that ‘public living room’ that Friends had in that apartment or Jerry’s apartment. People came and went as they pleased. There were four locks on the door, but they were never locked. They also had that other space, the coffee shop down below – Seinfeld had it with the diner. In Daleville, we had La Hacienda and Starbucks. We knew the people working there and they new us. Remember when George found the rubber band in his soup and playfully sprang it back to the cook who left it there? I think we all long for that sort of community where we all know each other on that level.

Another friend wrote in reply, “I think it has to be ‘art’ imitating life. It isn’t like Seinfeld or Friends glorified New York as the central scene where all things are happening – that had already been the prevailing public opinion since at least the 1920’s. Although, I don’t think it is “imitating” so much as it is a broadcast company’s calculated offering of what the public will find interesting or novel. Green Acres wasn’t about the country, it was about the voyeuristic experience of someone foolishly leaving the wonders of the big city for the country – adding in the tension of the couple having different perspectives.. Beverly Hillbillies was about the opposite – people who don’t. belong in the wonderful urban/suburban area and the comedic tension. Andy Griffith played on the mundane and simpleton of the small-town, where previously there wasn’t any television that was centered on a “watch the paint dry” town. By and large, I think TV producers expect there to be curiosity and reverence for NY and LA from outsiders and appreciation from those who live there. Other than a few shows who are using the difference in location as a position separator or as central to the theme – shows and movies have generally been based in NY/LA/Other large metro.”

Here’s the list of TED Talks for those of you who don’t have Netflix:

1 Bjarke Ingels: Three Warp-Speed Architecture Tales 18m

2 Thomas Heatherwick: Building the Seed Cathedral 16m

3 William McDonough on Cradle to Cradle Design 19m

4 Cameron Sinclair on Open-Source Architecture 23m

5 Joshua Prince-Ramus on Seattle’s Library 19m

6 Liz Diller Plays with Architecture 19m

7 Alex Steffen: The Shareable Future of Cities 10m

8 James H. Kunstler Dissects Suburbia 19m

9 Kamal Meattle on How to Grow Fresh Air 4m

10 Jane Poynter: Life in Biosphere 2 15m

11 Anupam Mishra: The Ancient Ingenuity of Water Harvesting 17m

12 Mitchell Joachim: Don’t Build Your Home, Grow It! 2m

13 Rachel Armstrong: Architecture That Repairs Itself? 7m

14 Joshua Prince-Ramus: Building a Theater That Remakes Itself 18m

15 Magnus Larsson: Turning Dunes into Architecture 11m

16 Michael Pawlyn: Using Nature’s Genius in Architecture 13m

17 Ellen Dunham-Jones: Retrofitting Suburbia 19m