Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Urban "Spamming"

I don't know about you, but I cannot easily move around the city that I live in.  It is not very livable. Actually, most of the county that I live in is not.

I cannot ride my bike to the grocery store.

There is only one major grocery store- no neighborhood markets, only large big box type corporate stores.

I need the freeway to get just about anywhere.

The public transportation system is laughable.

There is no readily accessible train and or bus system available to me.

I need to punch in a gate code to get into my "community" and I need a second to merely enter my garage.  Don't have that code?  Not welcome in this "community".

My neighbor's house looks the same as mine.  You would never know it, because all you see is my garage.

I cannot plant a tree out front, or hang up a basketball hoop for our son as it is "not aesthetically pleasing to the remainder of the community".

Granted- I will give it this; there are plenty of parks.  Dog park, kid parks, the YMCA, there are an abundance of planned community recreational areas.

But what I miss is the feeling of a "real" city.  Everything here, and most other new cities, is artificial.  It is planned, jammed full, and identical.  It is mundane, monotonous, drab....artificial.

I am tired of it.

That is why I love this book- 

The Inclusive City, by Daniel Iacofano and Susan Goltsman.

"While they may look inviting, these instant neighborhoods are not meeting the needs of all residents of the city. Take a closer look beyond the facades and the traffic-calmed streets. You’ll notice that housing is expensive and the shops even more so. The people who live there don’t work there and the people who work there can’t afford to live there... The result does not work as a neighborhood, however. Instead of looking like a simulacrum of Main Street, it more closely resembles a large mall with the roof removed. Where are the kids, the parks, the neighborhood-serving stores? Chic boutiques on the corners don’t make a social community".

S0- How can do we get from here to there? 

"The solution, we believe, is a focus on inclusive planning and design based on economic, social, environmental and culturally sensitive policies that allow everyone to improve economically as the physical area improves. Cities need planning that recognizes that every individual has the right to full and equal participation in the built environment—and that through their direct involvement they can shape their own environment to meet their own needs".

Susan and Daniel are both founders of MIG, Inc. in Berkeley, Ca.  Together they work on environmental design for children, youth and families as well as urban and transportation planning.

Now, I am not an architect.  Or an Engineer, or a planning mastermind.  But I do know this.  The way that we collectively live in the larger part of the United States is unsustainable.  This bothers me.  I want to change it.

I believe that this is what they are doing.

The book is fantastic.  Large, but still fantastic.  It took me some time to get through it, but I never once felt as though I was in over my head.  The Inclusive City is put into readable terms, and laid out in a manner in which any reader can participate with the text.  It is evident that both authors are passionate about what they do, and that they want to share this passion with those around them through the work that they do.

You can get it here.

And I believe that you should.