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David Owen, author of Green Metropolis, will  deliver a talk at the Playhouse on March 17; the event starts at 7:30 p.m – and it’s free (thank you, Sam Sullivan).   The Straight has a piece on him here.  He’ll be making the case for urban density – and the highrise buildings that make a place like Manhattan possible.

Meanwhile, over at Grist, the always irascible (in a good way!) James Howard Kunstler weighs in:

Do you find yourself swayed, even a little, by these defenders of urban density?

A. I am completely on board with compact, dense urbanism. It’s a mistake, though, to think that’s the same as an urbanism of mega-structures — either skyscrapers or landscrapers.

A lot of this misunderstanding derived from David Owen’s 2004 New Yorker article, “ Green Manhattan,” which declared that stacking people up in towers was the ultimate triumph of urban ecology. Owen is a very nice fellow, but this thesis was a crock.

… We are entering a capital-scarce, energy-scarce future. The skyscraper is already obsolete and the architects and academic economists remain tragically clueless about it.

Oddly, the main reason we’re done with skyscrapers is not because of the electric issues or heating-cooling issues per se, but because they will never be renovated! They are one-generation buildings. … You cannot have a city of buildings unavailable for and unsuited for adaptive re-use. This final exuberant generation of skyscrapers built the past few decades — including the mis-named “green” skyscrapers — may be considered the architectural expression of the final cheap oil blow-off.