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.