Monday, November 25, 2013

Community and Diversity: A Dialogue

In response to this article at Atlantic Cities called "The Paradox of Diverse Communities", my fellow editor-architect onymously and I had a discussion/hashing out of ideas/questioning session via email that I think really helps illustrate the architect's lens of seeing the world.


What thinks you [of the article]?

The Architectrix: 

That's a lot to chew on! I like the idea of further "bridging." 

I think this ought to encourage the development around transit stations, where people from various neighborhoods meet each other on the train/bus/light rail/etc., and help to normalize this "otherness" that can happen when a metro area is heavily segregated. 

Also, I think food is a powerful tool for attracting "visitors" to places outside their own neighborhood - think of areas where all the Indian/Pakistani restaurants are, or Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Taiwanese import grocery stores, or little taquerias and food carts with churros and elote and tamales.
What is successful bridging?  Does it basically amount to encouraging inter-neighborhood tourism?  What does that mean?


Yes!!!  So much chewing!

That makes so much sense, to focus on where the connection and interfacing naturally happens! And also a good reason to look at the connectivity that transit can influence. Totally agree on the food thought...but then there is also the scale of engagement... a movie theater or a stadium could be argued as something that would bring "tourism."
But tourism could be gawking without engagement.  A neighborhood as zoo exhibit that you walk by or look at, but don't really the difference between  traveling with tour groups and traveling to want to experience a place styles... I am not into the idea of touring as a term because i think it feels more the other way of not engaging and novelty... There is a certain lack of respect for a place than when you have a realization that you are somewhere real/in someone's home etc. Not saying it has to be the same level of engagement as say someone who lives there, but that it's more than just a drive-by checklisting...of still being in a place...
I am finally reading the Jane Jacobs [Death and Life of American Cities]... but then there is so much to read...
I think with wandering neighborhoods. Even if it isn't the one that you live in, you feel ok and welcome and normal there, in a way. With the idea of tourism I wonder/fear for the feeling of outcast-ness also. Though I think it varies in shades with different folks and different hoods on how much belonging-ness one needs to feel? Or what sense of welcome-ness or how much tolerance...both for the ones who live there and the visitor.

The Architectrix:

Something else to consider are traffic corridors through neighborhoods, particularly foot and bicycle traffic, since those are usually slow enough that one would be able to stop at various attractions (parks, restaurants, civic buildings, etc.) without much need for infrastructure like parking garages and whatnot.

The problem I would have with a stadium is that modern stadiums are built with a sea of asphalt around them for parking. Compare Wrigley Field (again, Chicago examples), which is in the middle of the neighborhood, street parking and the rare surface lot parking only - lots and lots of bars and restaurants and fan shops but also apartments and houses and grocery stores and such, with Soldier Field, which while in the Museum Campus is also in a sea of asphalt and does not *retain* people after the sporting event is done.  Soldier Field is not in a neighborhood so much as it is [among] a cluster of attractions where nobody lives. 

[There are s]imilar problems with big multiplex movie theaters vs little one-two-three-four screen theaters, which can be incorporated into the fabric of the streetscape without interrupting everything with a gigantic parking garage or parking lot.

In some ways I think the specialization of neighborhoods (as I'm going to call it) from a market standpoint can be attractive because that neighborhood in effect has a monopoly on something.  Maybe it's a monopoly on sari fabric, or galangal, or mosaic murals, or whatever - the point is that in order to get that thing/experience/food, you have to go to that neighborhood i.e. outside your own neighborhood.

Or maybe the way to get something going is to have traveling attractions - a kind of Pied Piper to bring people to new places to see this traveling attraction.


I don't love stadiums [because] they cut off neighborhoods even without the giant asphalt... I am curiously watching how the chunk of Brooklyn around the [Barclays Center] is doing.

It comes back down to scale, both for transit and what gets put in. And i think the smaller/slower scale engage more readily and touch the part of the fabric while maybe the other ones are blehh.

Yea... specialization is a good thing it is another way of framing locality sort of. Maybe it isn't the monopoly that matters but that the concentration and intensity becomes so strong that it can be a signature.

Are pop up shops a Pied Piper?

Ooh or maybe more like how sometimes in Philly they have these night markets that highlight specific neighborhoods (critique of those being that it engages less the neighborhood and sometimes kinda is more of the same carts each time). Or a first Friday art walk sort of thing, or holiday markets that are seasonal, things like that?

The Architectrix:

Maybe it's merely providing for temporary "pop-up" events - a multi-use building or open space that can wear a variety of hats. Neighborhoods within themselves already do this with farmers' markets and street fairs.  And maybe for small isolated events like this, architects need to back off and let things happen organically, too.  Instead of over-designing a building, maybe it's just a smarter parking lot, with more places to attach and power tents or set up tables.

The questionable-ness of tourism as a method of promoting diversity and interconnectivity in a metro area (more on suburbs and rural areas in another post) is important to talk about.  Even something as ordinary as a bar-crawl is neighborhood tourism.  I wouldn't want to advocate bar-crawls as the best method for seeing and appreciating neighborhoods, though - and how does one tour a neighborhood without the locals scorning the tourist?

Rick Steves (yes, that Rick Steves) is a professional tourist.  His methods for visiting new places largely involve going to the major historical and artistically/architecturally significant sites, and doing as the locals do with respect to eating, bathing, shopping, etc.  

Art historians and architects and governments determine which are the significant sites - that's simple library research.  But how does he find out what the locals do?  He finds someone who is local and asks them, and in many cases hires a local guide.  Often he stays in small hotels or rooms for rent which do not have counterparts in other parts of the world.  In conjunction with seeing the grand historical churches and artwork, he goes to the markets where local people are just doing their daily thing.  And he does all this with the attitude that he will find value and enjoyment in the people he meets, the foods he tastes, the places he visits, and the culture he immerses himself in.

One person visiting a new city as a tourist does not require much in the way of his own infrastructure or urban planning.  Can architecture and urban planning and policy encourage this kind of direct connection between people of different neighborhoods in an existing city?  How?


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