Thursday, August 20, 2009

Charlotte architect one of 'Greatest Urban Thinkers'

The late Jane Jacobs leads the vote so far with at least 660, but Lewis Mumford (270) and Kevin A. Lynch (281) are virtually neck and neck. The horse race? An online contest by the Web site for Greatest Urban Thinker. Here's a link.

I was cheered to see Charlotte architect Terry Shook (below) on the list, though rather far down it, with 7 votes last I looked. S.C.-based developer Vince Graham is also on the list, with 5 votes.

It's an interesting list and provocative intellectual exercise, because you have to ponder whether some of the anti-urbanists, such as New York's Robert Moses and Le Corbusier, were more influential than urbanists such as Mumford and Jacobs.

The Planetizen gang decided to leave a bit muddy the issue of whether "influential" should mean "brilliant thinker about cities" or "had the biggest impact." Here's what they say:

"What about Le Corbusier, who remains an influential figure in architecture but has been labeled Enemy Number One by urban planners? Like Time Magazine, we've left the definition deliberately vague to encompass those who've had the most influence on the way we think about cities and/or how cities are shaped, for better or for worse. "

I e-mailed Shook (a UNC Charlotte alum) to alert him to his appearance in company of Mumford, Lynch, Daniel Burnham and other Big Names. He replied: " Really? ... Any idea on how I got on there?" (Which I'm pretty sure means he wasn't voting for himself ... )

You can vote for up to 15. Have at it.
One last note: If you're interested in reading about how Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses fought one another in New York over a series of urban redevelopment projects (Jacobs won the battles) look for "Wrestling With Moses," by Anthony Flint of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. I've read it; it's well-researched, well-written and quite entertaining.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

OK, well. Although Terry's a good guy, and leads a pretty good firm, I wouldn't say he's near the top three of Charlotte's Greatest Urban Thinkers.

How about architect Harvey Gantt; visionary thinker Michael Gallis; current UNCC prof Davd Walters? What about Tom Low (please pare his own ideas from the DPZ tree); and in the way-back machine, what about John Nolen (who--I gather--lived here for a time while doing the Myers Park work)?

If we're talking about "urban thinkers"--as opposed to design professionals--what about Hugh McColl, or Edward Dilworth Latta...or even Tom Hanchett, who's done more to make the connections about Charlotte and its urban past and present than almoset anyone--past or present?

Don't get me wrong--I like Terry, his work, and his style. I think he's a blessing for Charlotte, and--like other prominent design professionals who do good things for the region, should be honored. But perhaps not as "one of the GREATEST." Not yet, anyway; give him time.

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Robert said...

Shook has that urban vision thing going for him. His ideals are reaching, but seem simple. Shook understood the mixed use new urban center (Birkdale) and south side potential before most and knew how to implement it. He gets my vote as one of the greatest urban thinkers. Simular to Nolen and and Duany.