More than 150 people jammed into Winthrop House's Tonkens Room last night to hear a heated discussion on the practical problems and potential promise of American cities--including a condemnation of Harvard and M.I.T. for the failure of urban renewal in Cambridge.
Architect-author Peter Blake, whose controversial book God's Own Junkyard is an attack on the "planned deterioration of America's landscape," insisted that only "coordinated planning with vision," can free the cities from the "incredible mess" they are presently in.
Use "Grid Designs"
"Politicians and many planners have never really understood what planning really is," he said. Blake emphasized that in the future all rational urban design must utilize so-called "grid designs" which would bring private city services, office buildings, pedestrian plazas, and even highways together in multi-level structures.
He stated that such planning would unite discordant urban elements into a cohesive whole.
Declaring that Blake's view left him "no more enlightened than when we started," Boston West-End developer Jerome Rappaport '47 said that practical problems stood diametrically opposed to Blake's conception of an urban masterplan.
Later in a question and answer period, Rappaport charged that Harvard and M.I.T. had abdicated their responsibilities toward Cambridge and were to blame for the collapse of urban renewal efforts in the city.
He said both universities had failed to use their considerable economic and political power and are presently suffering the consequences.
"They showed remarkable shortsightedness," he added, "as to their future need for land." A combination of these failings, he continued, account for many present problems and much anti-university feeling in the city.