[I had some problems with getting posts from eGroups last weekend so my
reentry into this conversation has been delayed.]
The basis of my question is architecture (and, by extension, urban design).
Is it possible to create some common basis of economic equity by merely
allowing for it in the creation of our buildings, our cities? In other
words, if we build it in, will we have it? Many critical minds have
commented on the effect that buildings--and their group effect as whole
cities--have in shaping our lives. If a structure physically allows for
something to happen then it might; if it physically prevents it then it
won't. Existing cities physically prevent this particular proposition of
economic equity, regardless of how effective it might really be.
My own feeling is that many benefits would be derived from having
commercial space automatically available to every household. It wouldn't
matter if that space is used as an office, as retail, as workshop (cottage
industry)...or whatever. Even if some chose to use it as simple storage
space, it wouldn't effect the benefit derived (I believe) by many from
having it available in the first place. The scenario doesn't mean that
everyone would be economically equal, only that everyone would have an
independent fighting chance.
Now, I don't suffer under the illusion that it is possible to remake
existing infrastructure to accommodate this scenario. Even the notion of
allocating existing facilities is absurd. We could add the element but that
won't get us to any common basis. The scenario would have to be created out
of whole cloth; that independent fighting chance doesn't amount to much if
logistics are stacked against you. I concede that this hypothetical
scenario by itself is not enough to justify a redesign of cities. But if we
had an opportunity to create new, whole infrastructure, and if it didn't
take us out of our way, then we might consider manifesting the scenario.
I'd like to address a few thoughtful comments others have made on the subject:
>Is this hypothetical question about the Internet?
No, it's about practical architecture.
DavidC (earthsea) wrote:
>IMO the answer is "not while leaving people where they are and without
>redistribution of land and wealth." ... Lets face it, we know what would
>>possibly work, its getting WHAT IS, transformed, that is the hard part.
Frankly, I'm not convinced that we know what would work (best). Moreover,
transforming WHAT IS is incomparably more difficult than starting from
scratch. And why not just leave people where they are? There are enough
"new" people to justify new structure. We simply need to "cut our losses"
with contemporary urban design methodology and proceed toward something
else, something built in the measure of man, not machine. As for the
suggestion that we need to redistribute land and wealth, I think this is a
red herring that keeps us from actual accomplishment. That's the thing
about architecture: it creates (or denies!) facility. We do not need to
wait for sweeping changes in society in order to create new, more
responsive urban infrastructure. (We only need to know what to do :)
"Build it and they will come." I expect that by going in a completely new
direction (as opposed to accepting automobile technology _sine_qua_non_) we
can improve urban life significantly. Those new forms and methodologies may
then be emulated and translated into workable solutions for existing
cities. The solution to transforming existing cities is first having a new
system (fully functional in the world as it is) designed for optimum
pedestrian use that one can compare. You will not create an optimum urban
form by retrofitting one that has been created for cars. I do not denigrate
efforts to transform existing cities; I am after something optimal.
Jack O'Lantern wrote:
>Well, what you'd have is a city that would likely be a collection of
>villages, each comprised of households, each involved in a cottage
>industry. ... Such a city would be dependent...on a rather utopian
>situation where everyone had a viable skill or was adept at
>manufacturing a product that could be bartered for necessities on an
and then, in a separate post:
>My concept of the proposed scenario involved everyone being essentially
>self-employed, or at least family employed.
I was vague in the original. The scenario does not require that a household
utilize the space for any particular purpose. Certainly some would use the
facility for cottage industry but others would not. The main point is they
could if they wanted to. Not everyone need be self-employed, either. I
might be just as happy walking across town to work for someone else.
Perhaps I would rent out my space to another who wanted to expand hir own
business--still an income for me. The fact that the space was available
would not necessarily change what I do for a living.
Mike Pauls wrote:
>if you're intending to make a point about economic opportunity, i think
>>you're getting close to one of the most important tools that cities have
>to improve themselves and the lives of their people.
If this is so--and I believe it is--then it will help to "sell" this
scenario as a base element of a new urban design methodology.
[On March 31, 2000, I wrote:]
>I'd like to pose a question for critical discussion. I realize the
>scenario >is hypothetical and I admit that it would be unrealistic to
>expect its >physical implementation in existing cities. It is possible to
>create the >scenario but that is an issue for a different discussion.
>Let's assume that we have a city in which every household has access to
>>conveniently located commercial space which may be used--or not--as the
>>household sees fit. What would be the impact of having such opportunity
>for >autonomous economic activity available to every household?
DREAM LARGE DREAMS BECAUSE SMALL DREAMS HAVE NO POWER TO INSPIRE