Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Long Abstract... But it Works

You sir… your time starts now!

The sense of community has been lost in today’s time. Cities and communities do not have the camaraderie that was previously dominant. Many people live next to people whom they have never met. Technology, transient movement, urban sprawl, and lack of compassion are all factors that are beginning to change the face of community. Another factor, zoning code, has not been used in the means that it was created. Zoning code has hurt communities when it is used for political purposes and not community and quality of life purposes.

Many moons ago when diners were the rage, they were considered to be a place where friends or all races, age, and class could come and relax and discuss any number of topics that were being dealt with. I am not saying that the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s were the greatest decades of all time, however there was a feeling of community, safety, and a lesser degree of stress in the world. A diner was known for cheap greasy food that was, sometimes, better than you could imagine or find any where else. The staff seldom wore name tags, because you probably already knew their name. If you had been to that diner just a few times, the staff probably already knew what you were going to order before you even entered the front door.

The diner is considered a “Third Place.” Out side of home (The First Place) and work (The Second Place), the third place was an establishment that people could go to get away from the problems of everyday life according to Ray Oldenburg. Diners were not the only form of the third place; taverns, hair salons, bars, restaurants, book clubs, coffee shops, barber shops, etc. could all be considered third places. These places are where people of the community can come to discuss a number of issues and relax. People usually find that third place that they feel welcomed in, and continue to go there.

So what is it about a third place that continually brings people back? There are a number points that can be made. Proximity, people find the closest of any of the establishment listed in relation to their home; sometimes within walking distance. Some other points that can be made are the following: cost is usually little, the food is usually good, the people blend together well, the staff fits with the patrons well, and the type of establishment fits the customer’s personality.

With all of this being considered, how could a city or community be developed around a third place type of environment? The city would be pulled together and eliminate urban sprawl. The various social classes would be mixed together and distinct areas would be broken up. There would be plenty of seating along the streets with green spaces and buffers. People would be encouraged to interact, not discouraged. Zoning codes would have to be used to aid in community relations, not just what the community should look like. And most importantly, the food would have to be great with a wide variety. With these and some other implementations, the quality of life would rise and the togetherness that a communities need would rise as well.

Dang it… I went over.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Research Paper Topic

It is definitely good to be home. It was an INCREDIBLE week and I am looking forward to August. Do not get me wrong, I am ecstatic to be home with my wife and my little girl. Like Eric said on one of the replies on Mr. Garvey’s blog: I get to talk to my wife in person and get to hear about my little girls day.

Any way, on to the business at hand. I think I am going to stick with the topic that I originally decided. Taking a typical diner and applying the information gained from that diner and applying it to the development or re-development to a city. I am trying to understand what it is about a diner that gives people that comfort level to have open discussions and a sense of community. An additional note that I am trying to determine is that if there is a specific layout that diners have that aids in the open discussions, pride, and friendship that is seen in diners. I am curious as to what I am going to find. Maybe something will be obvious, but I want to find something that can be applied to a city.

The reason for wanting to do this is just based on the fact that the city of Cincinnati is a great city, but something is missing from it. The community feeling is not there. Watching the video that talked about Fountain Square in the middle of downtown Cincinnati and how that was one of the best plazas to be around, makes me wonder as to how we managed to do that right but the rest of the city has completely fallen apart.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Alpha is Better Than Your Beta...

This was a very interesting read... and much easier too. I was intrigued by all of the examples that Duncan put forth. There were so many instances that Duncan referred to that would connect the landscape to the home owner. At first you could easily say that if you lived on the alpha side; your landscape was similar to the alpha style, you were a particular personality, and communicated like an alpha would. Similarly if you lived on the beta side; your landscape was similar to the beta style, you were a particular personality, and communicated like a beta would. However, there were instances where people crossed over and kept their style. The examples that Duncan discussed, to some point, almost seemed unbelievable.

It appears that Duncan was coming to the conclusion that a landscape can and will justify a particular personality and life style. He seems to be saying that no matter how a town starts eventually particualr areas will be defined. I would like to see this same study completed in other areas around the country to see how people interact based on these findings.

Based on the essay by Duncan, there is no possibility to attempt what Bickford was trying to get across the other day. Again, how ever a town starts, eventually the roots will grow, personalities will develop, classes will develop, and people will develop an idea for what is right. Even without fences and gates.

I would definitely like to see more studies similar to what Duncan was expressing. I just can not buy in to it completely. What were the landscapes like for people who liked ice cream, but not grapes? I need more data. I feel that I understand the theory that he has put out, I am just not sold completely.

I was glad to read about the “old money” and “new money.” There is an area in Cincinnati that is exactly this situation. One of the golf club houses is dominantly and almost exclusively “old money.” It does not matter how much money you have, even if you have more then any one in the club house, if the club house considers you “new money” you will not be invited to join the club.

This was a very easy read… very interesting.

Did anyone else get a kick out of the house prices? An average house price in Bedford in the early 70’s was $80,000! Through some quick research the average home value in 2005 for Bedford, New York was $1,187,267!!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Response to the essay by Susan Bickford

Overall, I want to agree with what she is saying, but the probability of what she wants to achieve is slim. I feel that to change societies overall view of segregation and classes would take generations, at best, to achieve. However, is that our generation’s ultimate goal? Should it be? Proof being the civil rights movement that she discusses. You can easily argue that civil rights has gotten better between African Americans and White Americans, however there is still a long way to go.

I do agree that gated communities cause a disconnection to the public surroundings. I consider it a castles drawbridge; open it to the good, close it to the bad. I agree with two statements that Bickford has in the essay; one: gates “actively construct relations of separation,” and two: “for when we begin to imagine that ‘the world’ consists only of those inside our gates.” As designers/architects we can not consider what is only inside of our ‘gates’, as we will probably fail at success. If all of our designs take similarity to what is behind our ‘gates’, where is the challenge and thought? What keeps the motivation?

Another note that I agree with from Bickford’s essay is the following: “As Elkin and others have argued, institutions govern and structure how citizens experience each other and (I would add) how then experience the built environment.” Architecture should be an experience and enjoyed by all aspects of the community as a whole.

In all, I feel that what Bickford is trying to get at is that a community should be what it is, a community. The essay starts off in some ways harsh, but seems to loosen up as it continues. I seem to sense that she is passionate about wanting a community that is together and not separated by petty class or social differences. Again, that likely hood of the happening is slim, unfortunately.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Post #1

This is the first post of many to come...
Lets hope that this semester is a good one!