Citizen Jane creating the urbanist movement.

The 20th century has two main parts: One part runs from 1917 (the year the 19th century came to an end) to 1945, and the second part runs from 1946 to 1989 (the year the 21st century begins). In the first part, capitalist societies are in a crisis that has its origins in the 19th-century struggles between workers and the owners of the means of production. After World War I, the demands for better housing, job security, and higher incomes can no longer be ignored. Something has to be done. One solution is socialism; the other is more war. The Global North selected more war. That's the 20th Century Part One.

Part Two opens with two choices: socialism or social democracy. Both of these economic systems promise better wages, higher living standards, and social services for the poor. Both expand the fiscal size of the state. But one, socialism, removes the market (capitalism) from the center of society, and the other doesn't. The United States and Western Europe and Japan pick the second option, social democracy.

This background is needed if one wants to get the most out of two great documentaries in the ByDesign Festival:

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (April 14) and Having a Cigarette with Álvaro Siza (April 15).

The first film is about the postwar struggle between two giants of urban planning: Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. Moses represented the modernist movement, and Jacobs represents the urbanist movement, which really didn't get started until the last decade of the 20th century. Moses's approach: top-down; Jacobs's: bottom-up. All of this is explained in the documentary, which has a very dramatic score because the Moses/Jacobs struggle had the intensity you would expect from a battle between Batman and Wonder Woman. But what the documentary doesn't mention is that Moses's vision was supported by the capitalists of his social democratic times. Why? Because his plans destroyed stored and stagnating capital and made room for the reaccumulation of capital. Jacob's urbanist vision did not do this at all. Her kind of city made sense only to capitalists with the financialization of the United States in the 1980s. At this point, the public spirit of her project was lost.

In Having a Cigarette with Álvaro Siza, which is a much quieter and more beautiful and less dramatic film than Citizen Jane, the work of the iconic Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza is lovingly examined. Siza, a socialist who is now in his 80s, did his best work in the second part of the 20th century, and much of this work was centered on public housing. But when the 21st century started in 1989, and socialism and social democracy were replaced by neoliberalism, which not only put the market at the center of society but also the lives of every citizen, Siza recognized that the role of the architect had dramatically changed. They now design for money rather than for society. This is the catastrophe of our times—the death of the public spirit in architecture. recommended