In a previous chapter in my life I belonged to an art society in another city. One evening a city planner came and spoke to us about the demoralizing and dehumanizing effects of ugliness in city environments. He believed that artists have a civic and moral duty, because of our talent and training, to advocate for aesthetic civic environments, and encouraged us to become active.
American author James H. Kunstler, in his recent TED talk, had similar things to say though perhaps more negatively. Here's the link.
In James H. Kunstler's view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about.
"The emersive ugliness of our everyday environments in America is entropy made visible.We can't overestimate the amount of despair we are generating with places like this. And, mostly, I want to persuade you that we have to do better if we're going to continue to project of civilization in America...."
Kunstler calls suburban sprawl "the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world." His arguments draw clear connections between physical spaces and cultural vitality.
I thought you might be interested...