Sunday, August 09, 2015

Happy Cities (1)

In his book Happy City: Transforming our Lives through Urban Design, Charles Montgomery explains that Urban Design has an effect on the way that people live. Here is a good quote.

We have this Conundrum. The detached house in distant dispersal (of a modern suburb) is a blunt instrument: it is a powerful tool for retreating with your nuclear family, and perhaps your direct neighbours, but a terrible base to nurture other intensities and relationships. Your social life must be scheduled and formal. Serendipity disappears in the time eaten up by the commute, in the space between windshield and the garage doors. On the other hand, life in places that feel too crowded to control can leave us so over-stimulated and exhausted that we retreat into solitude (p.128).
What we need are places that help us to moderate our interactions with strangers without having to retreat entirely (p.128).
This suggests that it is extremely difficult to establish a real church in which people can love one another in a modern city. Modern urban design is hostile to the body of Christ.

The design of our modern cities is still based on a principle of separation of activities, even though the problems it was designed to deal with have been solved.

The school of separation believed that the good life can only be achieved by separating the various functions of the city, so that certain people can avoid the worst of its toxicity (p.64).
Separation was the natural response to the Industrial Revolution, which created cities, choking on soot and sewage (p.64).
In the modern city, people live in the suburbs, a long way from their work, schools, and leisure activities. They are forced to move from place to place in the city during their day. This rapid movement depends on the automobile.
Despite their love of liberty, Americans have embraced the massive restrictions of property rights that the separated city demands  (p.67).
Suburban zoning rules have ensured that every city is as separate and static as any Soviet-area housing scheme (p.69).
The reorganization of cities could not have happened without breathtaking subsidies for roads and highways, a decades-long program that required a culture transformation (p.69).
Once the system of dispersal was established in early suburbs, it began to repeat itself in plan after plan. It was easier for city builders in communities with limited budges (p.75).
The modern separated city is based on the city and the automobile. The automobile transformed the city. I will explain how in my next post.


Anonymous said...

I'm always wary of people who feel the need to tell me where and what manner I should live. I've read a bit of western university (communist) doctrine of the issue and find most of their assertions to be built on lies. I've lived, as perhaps few have the opportunity to do, in a vast array of living conditions; none compare with my live of nature and sports as the suburban lifestyle. "Soviet-style cities" were the result of democrat voting plantations and skimming the financial pot by crooks.

The notions of current planning are indeed to make more, easily controlled masses.

You mentioned a good analogy earlier, that is freedom is messy.

Ron McK said...

Ironically, the suburbs of western cities are also designed by planners, mainly to support the automobile.