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Occupy or Inhabit? Changing the Way We Build Communities

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posted on May, 27 2012 @ 03:16 PM
So, how many of you are in the habit of chatting with your twenty closest neighbors? How many can walk the dog and greet or even converse briefly with most of the people you pass? Are there many places in your immediate vicinity where you can go to congregate, relax, and enjoy your beautiful community and the people you share it with? No?

Welcome to America (and pretty much every other post-industrial nation).

It's all sprawl and isolation, long commutes and anomie.

It doesn't have to be this way.

James Howard Kunstler, and other vanguards of the New Urbanist movement advocate a return to urban planning that utilizes vertical space and encourages habitation. And by "habitation", I don't mean mere gentrification- we should be concentrating on making our public spaces more inviting, pedestrian-accessible, small business friendly and centralized.

A lot of the New Urbanists come from the angle that increased centralization and an emphasis on community cohesion are going to get us through the dark times once the oil dries up. Maybe, but there are more pressing concerns at hand, as far as I am concerned. The steady breakdown in neighborly ties since the advent of the suburbs (and, conversely, the ghettos) has produced heinous, unnatural and psychologically damaging effects on the general population.

Contrast this cold, bland, treeless, soulless monument to homogeneity (note the lack of side windows, as per the vid above):

To this warm, inviting, richly landscaped neighborhood nestled in a community of unique, well-networked residences:

Where would you rather live?

Yeah, I thought so.

There's more to discuss in terms of waste reduction and urban food production, but I'd like to focus on the immediate benefits of restructuring (and in many cases retrofitting) our communities to increase happiness and social cohesion.

What do you guys think?

Further reading: (a lot of dead links on this one, makes me sad)

edit on 27-5-2012 by Eidolon23 because:

posted on May, 27 2012 @ 04:08 PM
This is another very favorite topic of mine. I read Mike Davis' City of Quartz, which is an expose of civic planning in the Los Angeles basin, at least that is one of the things a person might call the book, when I was a young adult and it has stuck with me ever since. I was stunned to discover that the ugliness of the L.A. urban sprawl was a direct result of the negligence and haste shown by every city planning commission to ever hold the seats; that the ugliness was due to our inner ugliness.

So I agree with James Kunstler and what he has to say has been a long time coming. I hope everyone has a chance to watch this video, most of us probably do not know that there is an alternative way to think about what goes in to building and composing the spaces we inhabit. I didn't as a young person, I just figured we got what we got. It helps to have the language to form an argument against what is so cryptically disturbing. What I mean by that is that if folks like James did not point out, for instance, that soviet-bloc like curtain wall backing that courthouse? I doubt any of us would ever be able to slow down long enough to be able to put what that kind of architecture does to our minds into words.

Great thread.

I know exactly 1 of my neighbours.


posted on May, 27 2012 @ 04:09 PM
This bit from the TED talk is well worth quoting:

We have about 38,000 places that are not worth caring about in the United States today- when we have enough of them, we’re gonna have a nation that’s not worth defending. And I want you to think about that when you think about those young men and women who are over in places like Iraq spilling their blood in the sand, and ask yourself what is their last thought of home? I hope it’s not the curb cut between the Chuck E. Cheese and the Target store! ‘Cause that’s not good enough for Americans to be spilling their blood for.

posted on May, 27 2012 @ 04:20 PM
reply to post by Xoanon

I am on a waving/greeting basis with 20+ fellow inhabitants in my particular neighborhood, with attendant language and cultural barriers.

It's all about the public space, and the extent to which you feel engaged with your neighbors. Communal gardening, local music and arts events, clean-up drives, play-groups and outreach programs; in addition to close attention to the way space is utilized and defined: I see a lot less vehicle traffic, crime, and poverty.

And we aren't even going full out.

posted on May, 27 2012 @ 04:26 PM
reply to post by Xoanon

Say, you reside in the gnarly metastasized nucleus of FUBAR'd city planning? With extreme insular cultural divisions? Preserving cultural integrity is swell: it encourages healthy competition between in-groups. But for that to occur, you need some degree of bonhomie and cooperation within the larger community.

Poor L.A.
edit on 27-5-2012 by Eidolon23 because: .

posted on May, 27 2012 @ 04:59 PM
Something that the New Urbanists bring to the table, and that I think is largely neglected by those building our cities is that there is a grammar and vocabulary to public design. That, at it's best, the way we define our public spaces tells us a lot about who we are as a culture, as a people.

That our structures and habitats inform our identities and actions at a fundamental level. Which is why the suburban model might not just spell a dead end for the far-off people who spend their lifeblood perpetuating it- but also for the very folks who are supposed to benefit from it.

That windowless, sad house on a water-sucking lawn: it doesn't tell us anything good about who we are.
edit on 27-5-2012 by Eidolon23 because: (no reason given)

edit on 27-5-2012 by Eidolon23 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 27 2012 @ 05:42 PM
reply to post by Eidolon23

Poor L.A., you ain't kiddin'. I was born just at the right time to watch an entire way of life exit stage-left. All that's left is the cheeseburgers.

Say, you reside in the gnarly metastasized nucleus of FUBAR'd city planning?

Yes, it's horrible, it truly is one, huge interconnected mini-mall, and now that the economy is the way it is and stores are stocking 'strategically' a person will definitely have to scour the whole sprawl within 20 miles to find everything that one needs. Local produce is a side-show and practically an event, at least at the markets.


posted on May, 27 2012 @ 05:59 PM
reply to post by Xoanon

Okay, I guess we need to get into local production.

Some very brave and persistent citizens attempted to provide for their dietary requirements in your vicinity. They were systematically gang-stomped by the real-estate buggers who owned the lot they were growing food on.

Not great, guys.

And it's not just food production.

Let me set up a scenario: if one of the 20+ people in your neighborhood made sweet-ass furniture in their home shops, offered at a reasonable price, would you still go to Ikea? Or, God help you, BigLots?

No. No, you probably woodn't (hee.).

posted on May, 27 2012 @ 06:04 PM
reply to post by Eidolon23

Oh! And might I add that in addition to alleviating the problem of lack of wholesome food in South Central L.A., that project fostered an unheard of amount of civic engagement and cooperation between culturally diverse residents.

Eff you, short-sighted real estate dongs.

posted on May, 27 2012 @ 06:27 PM
reply to post by Eidolon23

Some very brave and persistent citizens attempted to provide for their dietary requirements in your vicinity. They were systematically gang-stomped by the real-estate buggers who owned the lot they were growing food on.

There is actually a timeline on WikiPedia for the demise of South Central Farms...

At 3 a.m. on the morning of June 13, 2006, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department arrived at the farm, fully surrounding it by 4 a.m. At 5 a.m., the sheriffs entered the farm, giving the occupants 15 minutes to evacuate. At that point, most of the occupants of the land left, with a few verbal skirmishes reported.

According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 40 protesters were arrested. Actress Daryl Hannah was removed from the walnut tree in which she and another tree-sitter had been protesting the eviction and was arrested.

On July 5, 2006, workers began bulldozing the farm amidst protest and acts of civil disobedience. One protester chained himself to a bulldozer and another lay down in front of a bulldozer. Both were arrested. Two others were also arrested, one for throwing a milk crate at a police officer and the other for assaulting a bulldozer driver. Ten people were arrested in total.

"Actress Daryl Hannah was removed from the walnut tree", that lends an interesting visual.

Anyhow, yeah, bad stuff. I have read that buying local produce can increase the power of a unit of money as it circulates 4-6X as opposed to dollars that exit the community immediately upon being spent at a chain grocery store. We can't have that.


posted on May, 27 2012 @ 06:41 PM
reply to post by Xoanon

No spit.

I live in VT, and without anything to back up my hunch, I can say with some confidence that our resilience in the Neo Depression has a lot to do with the fact that we keep our money circulating locally.

You have to make a trek to the one Godforsaken outpost of BigBoxery in the whole state (ew, Williston) if you want to participate in that economy. Even the grocery store chains make a huge point of stocking local produce and products.

So, I may not agree with a lot of this guy's political stances, but his take on the importance of keeping your dollars circulating locally makes a lot of sense to me.

Americans’ long-term savings in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds, and life insurance funds total about $30 trillion. But not even 1 percent of these savings touch local small business—even though roughly half the jobs and the output in the private economy come from them. So, how can people increasingly concerned with the poor returns from Wall Street and the devastating impact of global companies on their communities invest in Main Street?

In Local Dollars, Local Sense, local economy pioneer Michael Shuman shows investors, including the nearly 99% who are unaccredited, how to put their money into building local businesses and resilient regional economies—and profit in the process. A revolutionary toolbox for social change, written with compelling personal stories, the book delivers the most thorough overview available of local investment options, explains the obstacles, and profiles investors who have paved the way. Shuman demystifies the growing realm of local investment choices—from institutional lending to investment clubs and networks, local investment funds, community ownership, direct public offerings, local stock exchanges, crowdfunding, and more. He also guides readers through the lucrative opportunities to invest locally in their homes, energy efficiency, and themselves.

A rich resource for both investors and the entrepreneurs they want to support, Local Dollars, Local Sense eloquently shows how to truly protect your financial future—and your community’s.

We all have aptitudes, skills, passions, hobbies. They can be transformed into something that will provide us a livelihood as well as a sense of deep satisfaction.

edit on 27-5-2012 by Eidolon23 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 27 2012 @ 08:38 PM
I know that we are accustomed to wide, barren spaces, devoid of interesting features and vegetation, but imagine a neighborhood with these kind of houses, and this sort of landscaping (within reason)

Thanks, boingboing.

Micro spaces: you can customize them in some very cool ways, capitalizing on space, and maximizing on the greenery adjunct to the residence.

I know it's not everyone's bag, but you can get really clever and highly personalized with the way you orchestrate your own personal spatial domain.

Which might pay off in the long run?

Just think for a moment: what if craftsmen started up regional styles in this sort of design and building? Pretty sweet, huh? Yeah, I'm talking to you, all you hapless mofos with Industrial Design degrees rotting away in a filing cabinet.
edit on 27-5-2012 by Eidolon23 because:

posted on May, 28 2012 @ 08:27 PM
A good thread E23, but man that vid is 21 minutes long I'm going to have to come back to this thread when I got more time and patience to sit down and watch it and look up all your links. You know some of us dont have the patience to sit down for 20 something minutes and watch some dude talk.

But ya I agree with you on this E23, and though I prefer to be more of a loner and like my space, the way things are going eventually wont be able to keep going like this into the future, or if they do it will be something totally different then people would imagine it would be, kind of like the Japanese are doing with there beehive like capsule hotels. So on one thing we agree at is we got to change the way we build our communities, and get more engrossed into them them making sure we keep the bucks going more into them then into others pockets in some far away hegemony's or even next door corporations, because after all there transitory things. It just makes plain sense.

No to sure about whole miniaturization of things, or at least miniaturization of everything you seem to have a thing for. And even the hobbit houses are really cool, but dam its annoying as hell to bump into things every-time you turn around, especially if its the corner of something hard...Not fun at all, and I can attest to that.

I dig the folding furniture though, since I like to have a bit of room and not have things in you way constantly I know some people who like to put up things everywhere desks and drawers and all kinds of things, my mom is like that. I however even though its all fancy designed and pretty would prefer to just it being empty other then the things you really need, or things you can fold up or move out of the way easily. Then to always walking around desks, tables, and constantly watching out for things, its really annoying.

But ya I dig the pictures of the houses you posted, and even though they look small and possible way to cramped for someone like me. The style, background features the whole woodsy scenery I would much prefer that, then the whole complex of mini mall's on every corner that are going up in the concrete jungles of today.
edit on 28-5-2012 by galadofwarthethird because: (no reason given)

edit on 28-5-2012 by galadofwarthethird because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 07:54 PM
Introducing the "Urban Forest."

Now I live in an area where there hasn't been forest for about ten thousand years - since the wipe out of the non-human predators of the buffalo. The planting of the urban forest is a serious undertaking in ground that has been grassland for ten thousand years.

They have to stagger types of trees, as a real forest would grow. Some trees aren't intended as "first growth" trees. I didn't know that until I started looking into urban forestry management. If a squirrel can't live in your neighbourhood, there is probably something wrong with your neighbourhood.

Making neighbourhoods more compact does have disadvantages. No boulevards, and sometimes no sidewalks. Neighbourhoods with no boulevards are great for developers, but you'll notice that they have significantly fewer trees. Parents are also less likely to let their children play in front yards where they will have more interactions with neighbours, due to traffic concerns. A simple couple of feet of space on every street, deeply impacting culture.

The newer models of civil street designs, where the streets are circular have made people even less likely to let their children out to play. They can't see them for very far, and so they don't let them wander. Add this to other safety concerns, and the modern wavy streets are not family friendly even if they discourage traffic.

posted on Jun, 5 2012 @ 07:03 AM
Here is a link to "William H. Whyte: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces"

It is very, very good; and has an endearing educational film reel feel to it.

I can't believe all this info has been around since the seventies, and is still not being more widely implemented by urban planners.

Keep an eye out around the15:00 mark for "Swinger's Plaza."

edit on 5-6-2012 by Eidolon23 because: "And there are the swingers..."

posted on Jun, 5 2012 @ 10:19 AM
Watching how this stuff goes down here, these ideas all end up on paper and then are thrown out for "practical" reasons.

Those practical reasons are things like: a council member doesn't like the extra traffic in their area, or the political rep for the area is punishing some non-voter neighbourhood, or someone owes/has interest with developers. Another good one is growing population or shrinking population combined with aging population that doesn't like change.

The brilliance on paper (or computer app) only translates into reality in a limited fashion.

posted on Jun, 5 2012 @ 10:56 AM
reply to post by SibylofErythrae

Bureaucrats and the Elderly:

The chronically constipated inflicting their condition on the body politic?

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