Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Walking in the West End


The other day I took to the streets of Dallas to stroll down the so named West End and take a couple of photos with a camera I borrowed from my sister. It all looked clean and organized but lacked one substantial element, a soul. As I walked the barren sidewalks nothing was out of place, no difference from one store to the other. Trendy restaurants all look the same resulting in a rather confusing kind of boredom. This district was renovated and then gentrified in quick succession. Diversity and character gave way to an architectural conformity that tires the eyes and fatigues the urban dweller spirit. It is in the heart of the Metroplex, a urban conundrum of 6.1 million people living in area of 9,200 sq.mi.(About the area of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined!) It was designed for cars not people. As a pedestrian I am considered to be a pariah in this city. That in itself is a disgrace for the main purpose of humans getting "civilized" and constructing cities is to meet at a common ground where ideas, innovations and diversity contribute to the well being of all citizens. When an urban area is as physically disconnected as that of Dallas-Ft. Worth all sense of belonging to a greater community disappears. I have nothing against urban renewal, in most cases is necessary for a city to improve its infrastructure and to re colonize old and historical abandoned districts. But it must be done with care and responsibility.
Before the new buildings, even sidewalks and antique gaslight come up the neighborhood should constitute a cohesive community. It is not just about looking historical or in the case of the West End, pseudo historical but it must be alive with real people. The city as an entity should be a crucible where diverse ideas get mixed and synthesised. The purpose of the city is to be a universal translator of ideas to all of its citizens.
I do not care for Utopian models for urban planning, if anything they are just pretentious and snobbish. We need our friendly streets back, our human scale living, our colorful neighborhoods.
I love seeing different architectural styles mingling together and having a fluid conversation with shoppers, tourists and passersby.
I like a real city to live in, one that's not ashamed of its old buildings or low middle class neighborhoods. In my mind gentrification is annihilation. You do not upgrade buildings to look like Neo Victorian townhouses for the affluent by depopulating them of the working class original dwellers. Communities are being destroyed this way.


I liked this pub standing silently and alone in one corner of the district.

10 comments:

Jo said...

Omigosh, that little pub looks wonderful.

Cars and suburbs ruined cities. Everyone fled to the little ticky tacky houses and left the inner cities to die. Now they are being gentrified in the hopes of revitalizing them, but like you say, they are barren. They have done that to Yaletown here in Vancouver.

Have you ever been to Greenwich Village in New York? It was fabulous when I was there, but I understand it is being "gentrified" too. *sigh*

A Cuban In London said...

I freaked out when I read the title of your post. We have a West End in London, it IS Central London, theatreland with the red light district attached to it. Lovely commentary and pictures. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Peggy said...

"Diversity and character gave way to an architectural conformity that tires the eyes and fatigues the urban dweller spirit..." Beautifully and aptly put! Small towns, too, are under seige, resulting in look-alike mediocrity. How I despair when there is nothing distinct remaining to move my spirit!

Cynthia said...

Yes, I love the corner pub in the fresh air, too! I enjoyed your remarks about the way a city changes.

Steph said...

Beautifully put. I also dislike the "pseudo societies" that are springing up: housing developments that are designed to look and act like villages, but have no soul or identity because there is no history, no intrusion from the outer world. Just a bunch of snoots gating themselves off from real society.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

How awful that a pedestrian should be considered a pariah!

I love the bustle of little villages and some higgledy-pigglediness too. Places that have grown organically over the years. Spontaneity, planning, tasteful beauty and a touch of garishness all mingled together ... life!

willow said...

I couldn't agree with you more! A little renovation can be a good thing and I love it when beautiful historic places are preserved, but when the soul and personality are totally purged from a district it is a sad, sad thing.

nollyposh said...

Hmmmm i agree... but it's happening to 'people' tOO... It's a loSS of the 'soul' of things

willow said...

Okay, I'm passing you the letter "enya" for the letter game, but if you write your post in Spanish, some of us won't be able to read it. How about if you just do an English "n"?

Anonymous said...

You idiot that's not the west end thats west village. Get it right.