3. Time

Track three in the C.Rushing blog interpretation of Dark Side of the Moon...

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day 

You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way. 

Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town 

Waiting for someone or something to show you the way. 


Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain. 

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. 

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. 

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun. 


So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking 

Racing around to come up behind you again. 

The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older, 

Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time. 

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines 

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way 

The time is gone, the song is over, 
Thought I'd something more to say.

I am, of late, obsessed with time. Perhaps because I’m getting older (this year’s Christian-mas is a milestone), perhaps because my schedule is tight, perhaps because the boys are growing too fast, perhaps because selling my time is how I make a living. In addition to being my latest obsession and aside from being one of the greatest songs ever, Time is also an integral element of urban design.

The great cities of the world have grown incrementally over time. Since our country is relatively young, American cities have only had a few centuries to evolve as opposed to the millennia of some European and Asian cities. In and of itself, this is neither good nor bad, but couple that with unprecedented technological and population growth over the past century and the American city has become a different animal from cities across the globe.

Because our cities are so young, we don’t have the types of authentic, evolved city spaces that can be found on other continents.*  We do, however, love to put on a show. So it’s quite common to find “themed” development over here. Rather than embrace, nurture and grow a visual language of our own, we try to import things we like from around the world. This is part of the reason why the en vogue theme districts and a lot of new urbanist projects feel so thin and shallow. Developers understand that they like a certain place and try to recreate it. The problem is that authentic places have evolved over time and part of why they are so lovely is the patina that can only be acquired with the passage of time. Trying to copy that characteristic only results in places that are inauthentic and plastic- these are characteristics that designers and lay-people alike pick up on.

One of recent trends in urbanism is the recent surge in “DIY” urban design initiatives. This has been a topic of debate for planners and architects; you can read a couple of opinions about it here and here. I’m still in the process of forming an opinion about the phenomena – it certainly has pros and cons. The biggest con for me is time. If we’re talking about just a building, the process can take years. If we’re talking about a city, a single project can take a decade. Forget about issues of money, regulation and expertise, the question becomes who is going to stick with the vision over time to ensure that it is nurtured, protected and moved forward.

Chattanooga is effectively 196 years old. Our relatively recent civic renaissance has lasted about 30 years- only 15% of the overall life of the city. So, in the broad since, our recent work has been but a bump on the timeline. That work, however, has taken about half of a human lifetime. If you consider the various projects and initiatives that have happened within that period, you will find that time plays a major role in each.

In 1982 a state aquarium was proposed in the student work of Images of the City. Ten years later in 1992 the Tennessee aquarium was opened. Eight years passed from the time an intervention in the city’s center was proposed until Miller Plaza was completed. It took about ten years from the Southside planning initiatives of the mid-90s until Main Street hit full stride.  Twenty-five years passed from the time we decided to return to the river until the 21st Century Waterfront completed the connection. All of our major maneuvers have taken time, and each has outlasted yearly budgets and elections at every level.

During our impressive thirty-year run we had an entity that served as the steward for our civic visions. This place was open, transparent and served as common ground for every person and institution in the community. This place also put forth ideas, concepts and visions for the community to digest, debate and react to. The keeper of our collector conversation on urbanism and design kept these visions alive for as long it took to get them implemented. Who now is charged with stewarding the visions for the community over time and across budgets and elections?

*In our country, buildings that are 50 years old are eligible to be designated historic. That's funny. In older cities (where modern architecture also happens to be embraced) there are 200-year-old buildings that are still considered new.

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