How to Build a Village
- Thanks to Robert Moskowitz for the heads-up.
How to Build a Village (Paperback)
by Claude Lewenz (Author)
List Price: $64.00
SUBURBS WERE INVENTED TO SELL CARS.
Toward the end of World War II, American business and government leaders
saw a second Great Depression looming if government spending ended and
millions of soldiers returned home. They decided to turn the war-winning
industries of oil, jeeps and tanks into the post-war civilian industries
of oil, cars and bulldozers - to go from fighting a war to building the
new American suburbs. To make the shift they legislated a radical change
in how humans live - spreading out human activities so the mundane
chores of daily life required a car.
The economic plan worked and for over half a century the US economy
boomed. "What's good for General Motors is good for America". Without
understanding why, other countries adopted the American way - even
countries that did not make cars or pump oil. While the plan was good
for America's post-war economy, suburbs proved to be an immeasurably bad
use of resources - both natural and in how people live.
VILLAGES ARE DESIGNED FOR QUALITY OF LIFE
What happens if we design for quality of life rather than to sell cars?
What would the zoning look like? How would it work? In this 256 page
book with over 400 color photographs, this question is examined in
detail. The answer is a "Village" defined as a 5,000 to 10,000
population, self-contained, high-density community built on 100-400
acres around multiple plazas with cafes, shops, workplaces and artist
guilds and no cars within - all is within a 10-minute walk with a
motorpool for the cars, outside the Village gates. Local governments can
think of the Village as an environmentally, socially, culturally and
economically sustainable, self-contained, billion-dollar, greenfield,
mainstream investment that brings in over 2,000 new, quality jobs worth
over $100 million a year. Future residents of the Village can think of
it as a wonderful, thriving and fulfilling place to live.
Each part of a Village makes another part work. The keystone is its own
local economy. With a local economy, the Village is micro-zoned -
everything people need is within walking distance... homes, work, shops,
cafés, schools and recreation. This removes need for cars, which lowers
pollution and cost of living. No cars results in smaller roads, more
human-scaled, lower-cost and better land-use. Elders need not move to
retirement homes when they no longer drive. Children can play in the
streets and plazas where working adults keep an eye on them. Small
streets require fireproof buildings (no large fire trucks), thus the
book proposes a design that is also rot-free and super-insulated. Plazas
provide the perfect setting to Slow Food - enriching social interaction.
Add the cultural enrichment of arts guildhalls and the Village becomes
more interesting. Another social element include parallel market
affordable housing, homes for service workers, teachers, youth, elders,
artists - the glue that holds a community together.
This book is necessary to challenge a mindset. The ideas are simple,
conservative, (meaning proven, time-tested, not risky) and should be
obvious. However, experts spent 50 years inventing a complex, radical,
and problem-ridden way for people to live now so embedded in mainstream
thinking that it takes a book, with systematic details, to show a way
out. Once the book resets that mindset, www.villageforum.com provides
the forum to build the Villages. The book will be judged not on numbers
of copies sold but Villages built.
From the Publisher
The idea of building a habitat to not only be a wonderful place to live,
but also solve all sorts of social, economic and environmental
challenges facing modern society took author, Claude Lewenz about 20
years, and considerable research, dialogue, focus groups and real-life
testing to refine.
Then, shortly before the book was published, global warming and
affordable housing became political hot topics. Good timing. However, if
one looks at the proposals people and organisations are making to solve
greenhouse gas emissions, for example, they focus on making cars more
efficient, or mixing in biofuel to reduce the adverse effects of a
car-based society. For long-distance transport this makes sense. But
within local habitat we have better choices, ones which How to Build a
Village puts forward.
What happens if instead we build human habitat where we don't need to
drive? We don't reduce or offset COv(2) emissions, we stop emitting. We
burn no fuel - zero emissions. Design to remove the need for cars as
In the 1990's the new urbanism movement began to advocate more human
scaled habits. Among other things, it sought to domesticate the car. How
to Build a Village, goes three steps further:
First, it identifies the essential requirement that we create a thriving
local economy that sells local to global and buys local. This becomes
possible thanks to advances in telecommunications, especially high-speed
broadband. This makes it possible for its residents to walk to work.
Next, it places everything people need... work, shopping, schooling,
cafés, recreation and a wide range of housing, all within a 10-minute
walk surrounded by a greenbelt. Within the habitat, ban all cars. Not
needed. Build a motorpool outside the village walls for longer distance
transport. Banning cars within allows a completely different,
human-scaled design. Old people need not move to retirement homes when
they lose their driver license. Children play in the streets safely.
People connect on plazas, no appointment needed; quality of life goes
up. Streets are narrower, cost less to build and maintain. The
development costs less to build, needs less land, yet is more charming.
Third, it builds to a critical mass, 5,000 to 10,000 persons, and it
creates parallel housing markets to provide permanent, non-bureaucratic
affordable housing for key sectors of the community... youth, elders,
teachers, public servants, artists and so on.
The book offers hundreds of other design patterns that fit together in
the Village concept. Yet, in providing them, the book does not dictate a
master plan - no cookie cutter design. Instead, it provides a process in
which the people who will live there, the professionals with expertise,
the approving governmental authorities, and the attributes of the land
work together to produce an authentic design reflecting the distinct
character of the people and place. This assures each Village is
distinctive, reflecting the authentic character of its people, and that
it remain interesting and fulfilling for a lifetime.
From the Author
"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."
[popular misquote of Victor Hugo]
I think the universe must not only be intelligent but interested in
human affairs. After spending many years in ressearch and then 16 months
taking photographs and writing a book, in the final few months of
writing this book, the world shifts its attention to the subject matter
of the book. Amazing!
The pressure to get this book in print is growing daily. Over coffee in
the village cafe, friends made it very clear the book needed to go to
the printers now, and further they were ready to call a circle of their
peers prepared to do whatever might be necessary to get it underway now.
I recognised that as author this was not about me, but the book.
I was the midwife to some ideas bigger than me, ideas that will take on
a life of their own as others pick them up and cause them to become
manifest, to enter the public arena. Fine by me, I want to live in a
Village, not spend my life talking about them.
A very long time ago, when I first began to promulgate the idea of using
design and architecture to address some of the challenges facing
society, I got soundly thrashed by those upon whom I tested the ideas.
Like wine that requires aging to become fine, the ideas slowly evolved.
When funds were needed to focus intense attention, such as running the
think tank, funds came, usually from completely unrelated places. When I
would get stuck on an idea, an email would come in requiring a response,
and in writing it, the answer would emerge for the book.
In writing this book, I confess to be a collector of ideas. While I'm
sure I would love to be credited with all the insights and inspirations
I hope readers find herein, most have come from dialogue with others.
The ideas are part of a collective consciousness where I take
responsibility for the bad ideas, but attribute the good ideas to over
forty years of asking questions. This book is also the product of
interviews, focus groups and a two year think tank that I ran in the
1990s. I use the collective "we" in the book to reflect ideas that came
from these groups and interviews.
The best advice I got in writing this book: "Don't worry about making it
perfect, the readers of the first edition will give you plenty of
advice. Get it done and get it published."
From the Inside Flap
A 5,000 to 10,000 population, self-contained community built around
multiple plazas with cafes, shops, workplaces and artist guilds and no
cars within. With its own local economy, affordable housing,
environmentally sustainable design, it offers a fulfilling, wonderful
place for all ages and diverse peoples, where everything is within a ten
From the Back Cover
Buy good shoes and a good bed, you'll spend most of your life in one or
If we extend that thought to our wider habitat, to everything that
surrounds us in daily life, we notice the extent to which our
environment has become generic and bland. A shopping mall in Italy looks
the same as one in Australia, and for the mundane chores of daily life,
we need a car. Character, authenticity and the rich flavours of life
seem to have been lost as we packaged our daily lives. None of this
happened by accident. It came about because Americans invented the
suburb. They invented the suburb to sell cars and petroleum.
To create a wonderful place to live, we need to start with a different
plan, one that asks different questions. Can we solve today's problems
without creating problems for tomorrow? Can we construct a habitat not
to concoct a market for cars, but to provide for Quality of Life? What
does it mean to create a human-scaled community in which people of all
ages and interests can thrive?
In this manual, Claude Lewenz explores what such a place would look like
if it was designed for quality of life. Using a language of patterns
developed in 1977, he weaves timeless patterns with new opportunity
offered by technology. The outcome is a large Village; one with many
plazas, where people work, shop, meet at cafes, conduct all the affairs
of daily life within a ten-minute walk. No cars inside the village
walls. Such a Village has its own local economy; it can stand on its own.
This handbook does not dictate what the Village should look like. Rather
it offers a process whereby people create their own - so each Village
becomes unique, reflecting the character of the people who will live there
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