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The iconic monolithic city often sits in our imagination as a society's great achievement. But with megalopolises come suburban sprawl.

Cities instead should be allowed to develop, mature and ultimately duplicate before they overextend into monolithic urban cores and space-filling suburbs, renowned architect Leon Krier told a crowd in Salomon 101 Thursday evening.

Krier, author of "The Architecture of Community" and "Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use and Avoid," spoke for an hour-and-a-half on the problems of modern urban planning, namely the use of architecture and urbanism in ways that create huge cities with suburban sprawl problems.

Krier called this urban expansion a "bloody disaster," specifically mentioning Manhattan and the proliferation of skyscrapers on the urban skyline.

"Cities often look like storage areas for buildings," he said.

Instead, Krier said, planners should limit the growth of cities so that they form concentrated, controlled urban centers. New cities would then spring up nearby and be allowed to develop their own cores. These concentrated towns and cities would be linked by expanses of empty space, such as woods and forests, and unchecked suburban sprawl would diminish.

"We need to reinforce and rebuild the small," Krier said.

Krier also talked about the intersections of urban plotting and architecture. He explained the concepts of classicism — architecture and planning that is often systematic, monumental and ornate — and the vernacular, which is characterized by a smaller scale and a greater focus on functionality than aesthetics.

Classicism and the vernacular are two ways to classify both urbanism and architecture, Krier said.

In some cases, such as the Roman Forum, the two styles can coexist. But Krier said the worst mix, to be avoided at all costs, was the combination of classical urbanism, with its neatly ordered plots, and vernacular architecture, with simple and plain buildings — the typical style for the average suburb.

Krier took questions after his lecture and emphasized that one of the benefits of smaller cities and less sprawl is the decrease in resource exploitation. If small-scale planning is reintroduced and encouraged, Krier said, we can also bridge the gap between the synthetic materials currently used in planning and the more ideal yet costly natural ones.

When one person asked Krier what role he thought public space played in urban planning, especially in the city of Providence, Krier said a big missing component was the "really good square" in the urban grid.

"I actually prefer cars (to buildings) in the public space because they go away," Krier joked. "There's a scare of the void."



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