Saving the City — With Max Dostart-Meers

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Great cities are the peak of human achievement; our failure to build great cities is a seething indictment of our time. Host Max Dostart-Meers says, “Let’s change that”.

(Series previously co-hosted with Lea Degen)

The benefits of our advanced capitalist economy seem evident in almost every aspect of our lives except in our ability to build beautiful, functional cities. Why? It is not as if aesthetics are any less important. In fact, as we move into an economy which is more focused on building and fully utilizing cognitive skills, aesthetics should matter more.

Knowledge economy workers understand this, and, in private realms, the aesthetic life of knowledge workers is better than ever – both employers and vendors try to differentiate themselves by tapping the motivational power of beauty. Good interior design is relatively cheap and popular – homes and work spaces are no longer as utilitarian as they used to be, but rather seek to please the eye and calm the soul.

Consumer products are much prettier. The internet websites we spend our days looking at seem to be increasingly well designed. Ultimately, building beautiful cities and public spaces is a skill just like any other, a common sense which we lost. I believe we lost that skill in the Second Industrial revolution when the benefits of growth were rival to aesthetic life, however, this is no longer the case.

My goal in this series is to rebuild that muscle memory and re-learn the simple principles that have been used for millennia to build beautiful, affluent cities. We will begin with a broad discussion to get at the root of why our era struggles to build and support thriving cities. We then move on to a first-principle based discussion about the concrete steps cities have used to enhance aesthetics, quality of life and productivity.

This series has 10 episodes, at 4PM EST

Depending on availability, the host might release tickets for each individual salon, too.

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1January 30, 4-6 pm EST
The City in Crisis

I will be hosting this episode from Singapore. Through the juxtaposition of Singapore and my home city of San Francisco, we will ask ourselves what a modern “city” is and why we should care? How is the history of the city relevant today? Do we even care how cities look and feel if they are able to pull people out of poverty? We will discuss what the ultimate gestalt of the city is with a focus on the following three key issues: the city’s ability to create a wealthy society, the city’s ability to stand for the aesthetic progress of society, and the city’s ability to push forward growth and the intellectual frontier of a society.
2February 27, 4-6 pm EST
Beautiful Cities: A Science

Is there a science to making beautiful cities? We learn and discuss some basic ground rules for how we can build and maintain aesthetics in the modern city without being stuck in the past.
3April 17, 4-6pm EDT
Why is it so Expensive?

Why does it cost so much to build anything nowadays? We will talk about cost disease in the construction of private residences and public infrastructure, which makes it increasingly difficult for human beings to change their physical world. How can we make it affordable to build beautiful things? Further, how does the difficulty of changing our physical world impact how we think?
4May 15, 4-6pm EDT

How can we unleash the potential of American cities as social mobility engines? We will discuss how cities act to make our country richer through agglomeration and network effects. How do we enhance this positive economic aspect of cities while also countering the often negative impact of cities on poor children?
June & JulySummer Break
5August 21, 4-6pm EDT

American cities, at least the old ones, refuse to grow. Why is this? We will get into the weeds of zoning laws, investigating their effects on the economic health and beauty of cities.
6October 9, 4-6pm EDT

How do we make getting around cheap and simple? What are the best transportation solutions for making cities wonderful places to live? We will imagine a future city transportation system which is both cost efficient and attainable while enhancing well-being.
7November 12, 4-6 pm EDT

How do we make our cities safe for people and commerce? We will think about policies which not only reduce criminal behavior but make our cities safe for victims of police harassment. How can cities balance the social experimentation, which makes them great, with personal safety?
8December 4, 4-6pm EST
Reimagining the Suburb

Are their benefits to reduced density and are they wasted on our suburbs? We will discuss how suburban communities could evolve to compliment great cities while harnessing the creative benefits of greater individual space.
9January 22, 4-6pm EST
The Future of the American City

How does current American urbanism stack up to the ideal we have discussed? Is America now fundamentally bad at building great cities and what does that mean for American exceptionalism? We will discuss how to harness the virtues of our Republic and our aesthetic history to build distinctly American cities.

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