The following excerpts were taken from four speeches made by James Rouse at Berkeley, California (1963), Chicago, Illinois (1965), before Congress (1966), and in San Juan, Puerto Rico (1967). These speeches are important because of their place in Columbia’s history. In each instance, James Rouse discusses scale as it relates to people.
The first excerpt of the speech comes from the James Rouse speech “It Could Happen Here.”
I believe that many of the most serious problems of our society flow from the fact that the city is out of scale with people; that it is too big for people to comprehend; to feel a part of; to feel responsible for; to feel important in. I believe this out-of-scaleness promotes loneliness, irresponsibility, superficial values.
“IT CAN HAPPEN HERE”
A Paper on Metropolitan Growth
By James W. Rouse
at Conference on The Metropolitan Future
University of California at Berkeley
September 23, 1963
Here, the term scale is introduced, but it is more aligned with feelings (loneliness) and social capital (to feel a part of) than any particular dimension or entity within a city. By this time, Rouse has already purchased most of the land in Howard County for Columbia, and within six weeks (November 1963), will have brought together the work group.
From Berkeley, we move on to Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 1965. During the intervening months between Berkeley and Chicago, James Rouse has been busy in Howard County. The work group has come and gone, he has presented his intentions to the Howard County Commissioners, and has worked with county officials for a year to get the zoning for Columbia.
At Chicaco, James Rouse spoke to a different audience. Rather than a conference on growth, this speech was presented to “The Annual Honor Awards Luncheon of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects,” at a time when the John Hancock Center was approved for construction. This building has 100 floors and rises 1,127 feet in the air. Commenting on the building, Rouse said:
Of more immediate interest to all of us is this recent manifestation of happy wedlock between good business and good architecture – The John Hancock Center. So contagious is the Chicago spirit that it has infested a Washington developer, an international architectural firm, and, most important, a great New England life insurance company to bring to your city a new landmark that may well become one of America’s greatest buildings.
Later in the speech, Rouse comes back to Columbia, and the issue of scale:
Forgive this amateur excursion into architectural philosophy – this audience and this platform produced a temptation that was irresistible. I was invited to talk about the City and the City I know best is Columbia – one that doesn’t even exist, but which has already brought to those of us who are working towards it, experiences and hopes we yearn to share.
We were drawn to the idea of building a City by our intensive involvement in suburban sprawl. As mortgage bankers and developers, we have financed for others or built for our own account most of the components of a City – but they have been splattered over the countryside in the unrelated bits and pieces that mark the accidental, fractured growth of our cities.
We have seen, as has each of you, the desperate need for comprehensive planning in metropolitan growth. We have made speeches about the loneliness and sterility of stratified, incomplete suburban sprawl and pleaded for communities in scale with people and responsive to the need for beauty, space, nature, culture, education, entertainment, and involvement. We have mourned the annihilation of streams and forests; cursed the bulldozer; fretted over the lack of mass transit and wrung our hands in despair as our cities surge toward the infinite Los Angeles that we have come to call Megalopolis.
April 8, 1965 – Chicago, Illinois
Great Cities for a Great Society
The Annual Honor Awards Luncheon of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
Here, we find an expansion on the subject of scale and its relation to sprawl. Beyond the feelings and social capital, aspects of nature, mass transit, and civic purposes (education, culture, entertainment) are introduced. Moreover, scale is related to an “infinite” Los Angeles and Megalopolis. Even in the 1960’s, with the John Hancock building in Chicago and the World Trade Center in New York under construction, I do not believe the reference to infinite was in a vertical sense. Los Angeles is known for expanding far and wide across the California countryside. Similarly, the term Megalopolis refers to the merging of distant cities.
From 1965 Chicago, we move to Washington DC in 1966. During this year, James Rouse testified before Congress in support of the New Communities Section, Title II of the Housing Bill. The following quote comes from a paper written by Morton Hoppenfeld, “The Columbia Process – The Potential for New Towns,”
The following statement by James W. Rouse, the founder of Columbia, before a committee of Congress in support of the New Communities Section, Title II of the Housing Bill for 1966, expresses a real personal commitment on the part of the principal decision-maker in the effort to build a better city; his values are shared by the entire Columbia staff.‘
Our cities grow by accident, by the whim of the private developer and public…By this irrational process, non-communities are born – formless places, without order, beauty or reason, with no visible respect for people or the land…The vast formless spread of housing, pierced by the unrelated spotting of schools, churches, stores, creates areas so huge and irrational that they are out of scale with people – beyond their grasp and comprehension – too big for people to feel a part of, responsible for, important in…
From “The Columbia Process – The Potential for New Towns,” page 3,by Morton Hoppenfeld. The Garden City Press Limited, Letchworth Hertfordshire, England
Here we see a further evolution of the term scale. Scale is unequivocally equated with “the vast formless spread of housing.” Without question, Rouse has now identified development over large areas as the dimension of scale.
The final speech looked at here is the speech “Cities that Work for Man – Victory Ahead.” This speech was delivered in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Lions International/University of Puerto Rico Symposium on “the City of the Future.”
[t]he bits and pieces of a city are splattered across the landscape. By this irrational process, non-communities are born – formless places without order, beauty or reason with no visible respect for people or the land. Thousands o’ small separate decisions made with little or no relationship to one another, nor their composite impact, produce a major decision about the future of our cities and our civilization – a decision we have come to label suburban sprawl. What nonsense this is! What reckless, irresponsible dissipation of nature’s endowment and of man’s hope for dignity, beauty, growth.
Sprawl is inefficient. It stretches out the distances people must travel to work, to shop, to worship, to play. It fails to relate these activities in ways the strengthen each and, thus, it suppresses values that orderly relationships and concentration of uses would stimulate.
Sprawl is ugly, oppressive, massively dull. It squanders the resources of nature – forests, streams, hillsides – and produces vast, monotonous armies of housing and graceless, tasteless clutter.
But worst of all, sprawl is inhuman. It is anti-human. The vast formless spread of housing pierced by the unrelated spotting of schools, churches, stores, creates areas so huge and irrational that they are out of scale with people – beyond their grasp and comprehension – too big for people to feel a part of, responsible for, important in.
[and later in the speech]
Sprawl is thought to be better than slum because it is greener, cleaner and less crowded. We accept the deficits of non-community; the scatterization of facilities, the frantic, fractured living, the loneliness amidst busyness, the rising delinquency among middle-class children, increasing neurosis, alcoholism, divorce; the destruction of nature and the dull monotonous man-made replacement. We accept it all as if it were a pre-ordained way of life beyond our capacity to significantly influence, shape or control. Lacking images of urban growth in communities that are in human scale and sensitive to both man and nature, we take what the developer gives us and we think we have to like it.
Cities that Work for Man – Victory Ahead
The Lions International/University of Puerto Rico Symposium on “The City of the Future”
San Juan, Puerto Rico
October 18, 1967
It is in this speech when it all comes together. James Rouse directly links “scale with people” with sprawl. The reference to loneliness recalls Berkeley. The reference to nature brings to memory Chicago.
What we do not find is any reference to scale and building height. It may well be that at sometime in future history a document may surface that spells out James Rouse’s position on height, but for now there should be little doubt that Rouse equated scale and sprawl, not height.