Making no small plans, the very first issue of Aspen contained a little booklet titled, “Configurations of the New World,”, papers, speeches, essays, discussions on the future [of cities, mostly] from 13 of the whitest guys they could find, as presented at the Aspen Design Conference. Here are a couple of quotes that caught my eye.
From “The Victory of Technique over Content,” a rumination/condemnation of the 1964 New York World’s Fair by architect and editor of Progressive Architecture, Jan C. Rowan:
The New York World’s Fair, in its planning, and its buildings, and its exhibits, shows us only what we already know: That we are creating very fast an ugly, inconvenient, depressing environment–full of gadgetry–that can occasionally hypnotize us through its razzle-dazzle and glitter, but, lacking any significant content, leaves us, in the long run, nervous, uneasy, and empty.
And from the late Interior Secretary and ur-environmentalist Stewart Udall’s optimistically titled essay, “The New Conservation Can Work,” comes this:
If we have reached the point where good design means efficiency, where investing in a good design or in a scheme of beauty is the best investment a businessman can make, we may have reached the point that Walter Gropius speculated on a few years ago when he said we wouldn’t really begin to build with greatness in this country until we had the right combination of politicians, artists, scientists, and enlightened businessmen. Maybe this is coming about.
Aspen 1, remember, was published in 1965, while the body of Park Avenue was still warm, with Gropius’s gargantuan urban disaster, the Pan Am Building, stuck in its heart. So maybe not.