Chrissie Hynde Talks Architecture, Urbanism

Recently, I had the opportunity — with my friend Royce Epstein, Director Design Segment at Mohawk Group — to see one of my favorite musicians, Chrissie Hynde, being interviewed in front of a small audience for WNYC, the public radio station in New York. Hynde was on a book tour promoting her new autobiography, “Reckless: My Life As A Pretender.”

While it took her a while to warm up to the interviewer (if she did at all), the interview touched on a number of subjects covered in the book, especially her life as a young woman from Akron, Ohio, moving to London in the 1970s, and ultimately forming The Pretenders and becoming one of the most well-known musicians of her time. While there were some topics that she just didn’t want to talk about, she openly shared other stories and commentary that was unexpected. What I found most interesting, though, is that she described anecdotes that clearly indicated her interest in architecture and cities without much prompting from the interviewer. In fact, it seemed as though she was more excited to talk about these tangential topics than answering the interviewers’ questions about her music and past relationships.

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photo by John Czarnecki

In one anecdote, she described how she had performed for the opening gala of the Broad museum in Los Angeles just days before. She was given a tour of the new building by the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DSR), and together they realized they had both had connections related to Rio de Janiero and a shared affinity for the architect Oscar Niemeier. DSR has designed a new museum of image and sound now under construction in Copacabana, and Hynde excitedly described that she had a home there near Niemeier’s studio.

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hynde

photo by Royce Epstein

In another moment in the talk, Hynde also went on a bit of a tangent as she described how she felt cities like her hometown of Akron should focus downtown development on arts and culture, such as venues for performing arts and cinema.

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photo by John Czarnecki

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photo by John Czarnecki

Her interest in cities should be of no surprise, though. One of her first jobs when she moved to London was in an architecture firm. And, of course, in 1982, she lamented her native Ohio hometown in the song, “My City Was Gone

I went back to Ohio
But my city was gone
There was no train station
There was no downtown

Southtown, it disappeared
All my favorite places
My city had been pulled down
Reduced to parking spaces
Ay, oh, where did you go, Ohio?

I went back to Ohio
But my family was gone
I stood on the back porch
There was nobody home

I was stunned and amazed
My childhood memories
Saw this world past
Like the wind through the trees
Ay, oh, where did you go, Ohio?

I went back to Ohio
But my pretty countryside
It had been paved down the middle
By a government that had no pride

The farms of Ohio
Had been replaced by shopping malls
And Muzak filled the air
From Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls
Ay, oh, where did you go, Ohio?

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