Dalrymple’s Oh, to be in England column for the Autumn 2015 edition of City Journal has just been posted at the magazine’s website, and it compares American architecture to that of Europe, with some conclusions I found slightly surprising. For while he prefers older architecture, he doesn’t actually abhor modern architectural styles in America, where he finds them at least more fitting than in Europe:
The upward thrust of American architecture has been copied throughout the world, successfully in Asia but unsuccessfully in Europe, where skyscrapers tend to be shabby, unconvincing, and out of place. The reasons for this lack of imitative success are several. First, such architecture requires either enormous capital or cheap labor, or both…
American modernist architecture is convincing compared with the European variety because America is modern, whereas Europe, ever since the end of World War I, has merely tried to be modern, limping sadly after a model. American modernity is native to its soil. European modernity is highly ideological, or at least theoretical, with either fascist or Communist roots.
By coincidence I too was in New York 40-odd years ago, and it was scary. My only contact with black people, however, was meeting a quite beautiful prostitute on the streets of Manhattan who delivered the splendid sales pitch, “Hey buddy, wanna fuck?” While she deserved a Plain English award, it was of course quite impossible for an up-tight Englishman to frame a coherent reply.
Regarding the New York and London crime comparison, I spent several late nights wandering around London over Christmas and felt completely safe. To compare London as it is now with New York in the 1970s is patently absurd – as Dalrymple well knows and as all the statistics will bear out. New York has certainly become safer and I should think London a little less civilized, but in terms of violent crime the two have converged. It should also be added that New York is one of America’s safest cities, while London is the UK’s most dangerous.