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Re: Can economic equity be physically facilitated?

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  • Randall Hunt
    [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
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 5, 2000
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      [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:

      Colette asked:
      >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
      >even basis.

      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.


      ***BEGIN ORIGINAL***
      [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?
      ****END ORIGINAL****


      Randall Hunt
      randhunt@...
      DREAM LARGE DREAMS BECAUSE SMALL DREAMS HAVE NO POWER TO INSPIRE
    • J.H. Crawford
      ... If you look at the way cities used to work, families occupied buildings that were both home and work. Generally, the lower floors were used for whatever
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 8, 2000
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        >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.

        If you look at the way cities used to work, families occupied
        buildings that were both home and work. Generally, the lower
        floors were used for whatever the family business, and the
        family (with apprentices) lived in the upper floors. Commute
        time, approximately zero. The reference design permits this
        kind of use, which also help create lively neighborhoods.



        ###

        J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_
        postmaster@... http://www.carfree.com
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