A provocative author and writer of all things interesting, James Howard Kunstler hasn’t minced a word in his life–and what a fantastic life! Author of a dozen or more books, he’s a regular blogger, podcast guest and never a dull interview.
Mr. Kunstler will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Seaside Institute Prize Weekend, held February 22 in Seaside, Florida.
He is the author of The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, which is one of the quintessential books for those who follow the architectural movement known as New Urbanism, the ground zero of which is arguably Seaside, Florida. Several more books on this subject followed including The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition.
Check out this video of Kunstler’s TED Talk:
Kunstler was himself the recipient of the Seaside Prize in 2010.
His talk for this year’s Seaside Prize is titled: Artistry Versus Entropy: A Short History of Cultural Fiasco. “I was asked in particular to discuss the amazing ugliness of the American built landscape — a subject I have covered from many angles — and why it’s a problem,” he said when we spoke to him this week.
“The heart of that argument is that the immersive ugliness of our everyday universe of tract housing, strip malls, commercial strips, office parks, and limitless free parking represents entropy-made-visible. Living in such a negatively-charged setting is profoundly destructive to the human spirit. It induces anxiety, depression, anger, and hopelessness. It corrodes and destroys social and economic relations. It makes us deeply cynical, thinking the worst of ourselves and our world.”
He brilliantly observed, “My new theory of history states that: Things Happen Because They Seem Like a Good Idea at the Time.”
“Hence, people in a society make collective choices and sometimes they are bad choices. Suburbanizing the USA, as we have done, was a supremely bad choice. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) The New Urbanism represents the recognition of these dilemmas and the effort to mitigate them with conscious artistry,” Kunstler said.
He spoke of Seaside, Florida, “(Seaside) ignited the insight that you could make better choices, do better work, and produce places to live and work that were actually worth caring about.”
New Urbanist leaders from across the world will gather in Seaside, Florida February 22-25, 2018, for a weekend of symposia, continuing education courses and receptions. The Seaside Prize is awarded annually by The Seaside Institute to individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the quality and character of their communities and are considered the leaders of contemporary urban development and education.
More about James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler says he wrote The Geography of Nowhere, “Because I believe a lot of people share my feelings about the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work.”
Home From Nowhere was a continuation of that discussion with an emphasis on the remedies. A portion of it appeared as the cover story in the September 1996 Atlantic Monthly.
His next book in the series, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, published by Simon & Schuster / Free Press, is a look a wide-ranging look at cities here and abroad, an inquiry into what makes them great (or miserable), and in particular what America is going to do with it’s mutilated cities.
He worked as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, and finally as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he dropped out to write books on a full-time basis. He has no formal training in architecture or the related design fields.
He has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, MIT, RPI, the University of Virginia and many other colleges, and he has appeared before many professional organizations such as the AIA , the APA., and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.