Energy and Environmental Building Association, 1999
A community that sustains and maintains itself in health and comfort can only happen when a community is designed for children, and the children are enculturated by the adults and old folks that they are safely interacting with all the time. The old folks respect and watch the children, and the children venerate the adults and learn the communities' traditions and values from the them.
This culturally sustainable town has streets (not just the fenced in rear yards) that are totally safe for children to play in. Children can safely explore a world that is much larger and more diverse than their own rear yard. They can play safely in the streets with other neighborhood children without constant supervision. This gives them the opportunity to experience serendipitous natural relationships with other children - not just relationships structured and managed by adults.
Nature is ecologically sustainable because it is complex, diverse, interdependent, integrated, and decentrailzed. For our human culture to sustain itself, it must be founded on similar principles. Until the last 50 years, neighborhoods and communities had always incorporated these age-old natural values. They have been temporarily and inadvertently abandoned as we have accommodated ourselves to technology and the automobile for the last 50 years.
In HomeTown, the spheres of shared human activity are at once complex, diverse, interdependent, integrated, and decentralized within themselves, and they bear these relationships to each other as each one relates with the other spheres of shared human activity.
Whether we want to or not we are designing and building homes and communities that become subcultures that either sustain themselves spiritually and relationally in health and comfort, or they become places of social dis-ease and sickness. We have the power and wisdom to build safe, healthy communities in which children thrive and learn and grow and develop strong individual personalities within the context of mutual respect for everyone and everything in the community.
And that is exactly what HomeTown is all about.
II OUR RECIPE
I have never had an original thought.
Everything we do is based on wisdom and knowledge that has first been expressed by others. At best, we have taken the observations of others and combined them synergistically to create deeper, more profound reality and space.
Underlying our philosophy of design is the understanding from Christopher Alexander that the people of a place have a common design language. This language consists of design patterns embedded in their culture and in the culture or environment of the place. These design patterns are like words that by themselves mean very little but when you combine them carefully you can create a lot of meaning in a few words. Likewise when you combine the right design patterns thoughtfully and precisely you create what Alexander calls "dense space", space that is deeply comforting and nurturing to the human psyche, the Greek word for soul.
Robert Bellah is one of America's premier sociologists.
Bellah in "Habits of the Heart" in 1984 said that Americans long to be more inter-connected and are willing to sacrifice some of their extreme individualism to have more committed relationships. Bellah's analysis of American culture at the end of the 20th century gave us the courage to take the risks to create communities that give people the opportunity to once again live more interdependently and interconnectedly.
Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer, environmentalist, and author who has lectured at Harvard, Stanford, et.al., taught us three crucial concepts:
1. A community of people is inevitably rooted in a place and in the ecology of a place.
2. In America there is an inseparable dichotomy between public and community, and between public rights and neighborhood autonomy.
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More by Perry Bigelow
- The Spirituality of Sustainability
- Building and Development Philosophy: Cultural and Environmental Sustainability
- Energy and Environmental Building Association, 1999
- Think Differently - Think Creatively
- Bibliography - Neighborhood Planning, Community & Ecology