Magazine September 21, 2020, Issue

The Death of Public Beauty

Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 (Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images)
How city planning went wrong

Have we lost the art of making fine public spaces? The very question is fraught, and not just because it risks insulting the architects, planners, and landscapers who make those spaces. It goes against the idea of progress itself. It affronts our pride to think that we are no longer capable of making spaces as noble as the National Mall, as dynamic as Rockefeller Center, or as exquisitely intimate as Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. And yet throughout history art forms have died. We no longer paint on vellum or weave intricate battle scenes into tapestries, yet both were once significant forms

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