In a speech titled “Cities that Work For Man: Victory Ahead” that he delivered in 1967, the visionary developer James W. Rouse spoke eloquently about the societal shortcomings of sprawl. He gave the speech at a symposium on “The City of the Future” at the Lions International/University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. I happened to stumble across the quote roughly 51 years to the day when Mr. Rouse began assembling the 68-acre purchase in Baltimore City that ultimately became the site of his first “planned community,” the Village of Cross Keys.
He proclaimed at the time it would be the largest and potentially most important development in the history of Baltimore. Most would say he dramatically eclipsed that standard about 20 years later with Harborplace, whose grandeur this region was reminded of recently during the stunningly successful Star-Spangled Sailabration that commemorated the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
Here’s what the late Mr. Rouse said about sprawl at that long-ago symposium:
“Sprawl is inefficient. It stretches out the distances people must travel to work, to shop, to worship, to play. It fails to relate these activities in ways that strengthen each and, thus, it suppresses values that orderly relationships and concentration of uses would stimulate.
“Sprawl is ugly, oppressive, massive, dull. It squanders the resource of nature – forests, streams, hillsides – and produces vast, monotonous armies of housing and graceless, tasteless clutter.
“But, worst of all, sprawl is inhuman. It is anti-human. The vast formless sprawl of housing pierced by the unrelated spotting of schools, churches, stores, creates acres so huge and irrational that they are out of scale with people – beyond their grasp and comprehension – too big for people to feel a part of, responsible for, important in.”
Here’s to remembering Mr. Rouse and his vision. Other excerpts from this speech can be found at this Columbia Compass blog article.
We didn’t have room on a bumper sticker for all that so we settled on “Less Sprawl Y’all.”
- A Surprising Consequence of Suburban Sprawl? (legalplanet.wordpress.com)
- Beyond Sprawl (brandavenue.typepad.com)