From Iceland — Why Try to be a Big Bad City Wolf?

Why Try to be a Big Bad City Wolf?

Published July 2, 2008

Why Try to be a Big Bad City Wolf?
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It seems to me that the higher powers in Reykjavik are trying to be a
wolf in sheep’s clothing. They are allowing developers with the guise
of modernity to lay the seeds to a concrete jungle. The energy and
heritage one feels when walking downtown would be diminished or
non-existent if lacklustre buildings aligned the sidewalks instead of
M&M coloured iron dwellings. The city council should help preserve
these houses, even the most decayed ones. Especially when they are left
to decay on purpose so that they can be bulldozed. I’ve even heard of
people renting rooms to junkies, alcoholics and the like in order for
the property value to go to shit just to make it easier for a developer
to sweep in and build a dazzling glass and cement monster.

Just as woolly sweaters symbolize Icelandic pride amongst the elder and
the young, these vastly different generations also agree on conserving
the houses in which the spirit of downtown is embodied. Its
safeguarding should be on the top of the city’s agenda. Who wants to
replicate the drab grey façade associated with big cities where people
don’t welcome each other with a friendly “góðan daginn”? I have a
personal theory that happiness is aligned with a culture’s preservation
because it makes you proud of who you are. Believe it or not, the
endangered status of these old houses wilts away not only an
inescapable past but also a bright and un-homogenised future. Why be a
grimacing wolf in sheep’s clothing when you can be a proud bleating

Other countries, such as my own, have fallen into the modernity trap
only to regret it. For example in my capital, Old San Juan, some of the
striking cobblestone streets that have been immortalized in our
literature and song were removed and paved with tar because they were
uncomfortably bumpy for our twenty-first century cars. The heydays of
traversing the city centre in horse and buggy were long gone so
removing the historically significant cobblestones for a smoother car
ride was justifiable. Now the en vogue government is putting laws in
order to make the centre of Old San Juan purely pedestrian in order to,
get this, protect the further damage caused by cars to the same
cobblestones that were partially removed in the first place. I guess
the trend to mimic modern cities had become passé.

I truly and whole-heartedly hope that Reykjavik does not continue to
succumb to such trivial fads and that the people in charge of the
city’s policies seriously take a good look in the mirror to understand
and praise who they are as a nation, rackety corrugated iron houses and

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Enough. Stop. Now.

Enough. Stop. Now.


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