Visible signs of the destruction of the public space in Davis’s language are no different from what contemporary designers and planners have proposed: “The valorized spaces of the new megastructures and super-malls are concentrated in the center, street frontage is denuded, public activity is sorted into strictly functional compartments, and circulation is internalized in corridors under the gaze of private police.” However, in contrast to his exploration of the dark side, he also reminds us of the ‘Olmstedian Vision’ to imply that he is not just a nagging critic and that he also has some model to offer: “Public landscapes and parks as social safety-valves, mixing classes and ethnicities in common recreations and enjoyments.”
Is Davis expecting us to believe that his Utopian city is feasible? I doubt. On the contrary, he wants to make sure you are convinced that such heaven cannot exist on this earth. If the urban physical and spatial structure is the embodiment and manifestation of the society's distorted conceptualization of the relationships among class, race, and security (shaped by the media, institutional racism, militarization, and financial opportunism), then there is nothing the so called ‘socially supportive environment’ can do. As there is no desire for inter-class interaction in the social realm, the public space collapses, even in heaven.
Davis inculcates a sense of desperation throughout his entire book. He deliberately, and cleverly, structures his argument so that to convince the reader there is no getaway. He leaves his audience in a loop which constantly regenerates itself every time in a more insoluble way. Following this, there seem to be only one loophole, and that is to change the structure of power and capital. However, he wants us to keep in mind that this condition is not corrigible, Davis does not tend to reform anything, and he is not even suggesting so; his criticisms have a revolutionary tone - only a fundamental transformation can stop the process of metamorphosis of cities to classist racist monsters.
However, it seems at least part of the problems that Davis was deeply concerned about were not that everlasting after all. 17 years after Davis’s book was first published, William A.V. Clark, the professor of geography in UCLA, writes: “It is still true that some large cities have high levels of separation of Blacks and Whites, but in many metropolitan areas the levels of segregation continue to decline … as Black education levels have increased, incomes risen and racist tensions diminished, Black households have increased access to suburban housing … American metropolitan areas are increasingly integrated and, with an increasingly diverse ethnic population, will likely continue the slow path to an integrated society. In summary, segregation still exists but is decreasing .”
City of Quartz is multifaceted and coherent, but Davis’s devotion to squashing the existing structure of power and capital has made his arguments to be less concerned with the necessity of reform and more based on encouraging a revolutionary discourse. As a result, those designers and planners who consider themselves as ‘pragmatist problem solvers’ might find this book a theoretical dead-end because within the author's framework, unless some greater socio-political forces undergo fundamental changes, there is nothing environmental design can accomplish. Although I believe picturing such apocalyptic visions, makes us appreciate smart design communities that do not necessarily consider major top-down changes as a prerequisite condition for having better habitats.