Monday, March 31, 2014

Life In Our Cities

Urban Planning

“In great cities, spaces as well as places are designed and built: walking, witnessing, being in public, are as much part of the design and purpose as is being inside to eat, sleep, make shoes or love or music. The word citizen has to do with cities, and the ideal city is organized around citizenship—around participation in public life.”
Rebecca Solnit,
Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000)

“It may be that we have become so feckless as a people that we no longer care how things do work, but only what kind of quick, easy outer impression they give. If so, there is little hope for our cities or probably for much else in our society. But I do not think this is so. ”
Jane Jacobs
The Death And Life of Great American Cities (1961)

The Circular City: Such is the modern city proposed by the Venus Project; its design is circular rather than grid-like, common to many cities today. The Venus Project is based in Venus, Florida.
Source & CreditThe Venus Project

Few cities in the world represent this ideal, a city designed and built for human habitation, which includes short distances between streets, lots of public green space and public gardens and various types of private businesses and residential housing. It also includes buildings that capture the eye, are aesthetically pleasing and are not filled with rows of similar-looking office towers and condos.

The downtown core remains the key, the essential element of what this city stands for, giving it character instead of looking the same as other cities of similar size. Today, however, what we view in the downtown core, which gives a city its defining sense, are constructions composed chiefly of concrete, steel and glass, with very little organic or green space for human habitation. If there is green space, it is a small lot with some grass and a few trees and benches, as if it were quickly thrown together as an unplanned after-thought, which is more than likely the case.

In addition, a great city needs a great and vibrant downtown core where people can congregate freely and walk around; this means no cars or motorcycles or other powered vehicles; a high-speed train would bring in people from the suburbs and other outlying areas.

Such is an ideal, but then there is the reality of city life for most urban dwellers and visitors. Our cities need changing; many were designed more than a century ago and could not account for modern life, and our views on sustainability and environmental stewardship or conservation. Many cities lack sufficient green space, are designed for maximum use of space without any consideration for human habitation, resulting in congestion, air pollution and crowded living. 

For example, in Toronto where I currently reside, you see rows of condos lining (or littering) the major highways that cuts through the city; it is not an appealing or aesthetically pleasing sight. Perhaps it is too late for Toronto, but there is hope that new cities will not have to meet this old model, but a modern one with modern ideas of living, sustainability and beauty incorporated into their very design. The Venus Project, for example, which proposes a new socio-economic model for society, has such a vision on how we can live better more healthy lives.

Its visionary is Jacque Fresco; on its website, it says:
It would be far easier and would require less energy to build new, efficient cities than to attempt to update and solve the problems of the old ones. The Venus Project proposes a Research City that would use the most sophisticated available resources and construction techniques. Its geometrically elegant and efficient circular arrangement will be surrounded by, and incorporated into the city design, parks and lovely gardens. This city will be designed to operate with the minimum expenditure of energy using the cleanest technology available, which will be in harmony with nature to obtain the highest possible standard of living for everyone. This system facilitates efficient transportation for city residents, eliminating the need for automobiles.
The Venus Project's Circular City arrangement is comprised of the following:
1.The central dome or theme center will house the core of the cybernated system, educational facilities, access center, computerized communications, networking systems, health and child care facilities.
2. The buildings surrounding the central dome provide the community with centers for cultural activities such as the arts, theater, exhibitions, concerts, access centers, and various forms of entertainment.
3. Next is the design and development complex for this research and planning city. The design centers are beautifully landscaped in natural surroundings.
4. Adjacent the research facilities are dining and other amenities.
5. The eight residential districts have a variety of free form unique architecture to fulfil the various needs of the occupant. Each home is immersed in lovely gardens isolating one from another with lush landscaping.
6. Areas are set aside for renewable clean sources of energy such as wind generators, solar, heat concentrating systems, geothermal, photovoltaic and others.
7. Next are the indoor hydroponic facilities and outdoor agricultural belts which will be used to grow a wide variety of organic plants without the use of pesticides
8. A circular waterway for irrigation and filtration surrounds the agricultural belt.
9. The outermost perimeter is utilized for recreational activities such as biking, golfing, hiking and riding, etc.
All the facilities are available to everyone without cost in a resource based economy. The sole purpose of this sophisticated technology is to free people from boring monotonous tasks, make available a much higher standard of living, and provide more leisure time.
With an opportunity for constant growth and achievement people could have the time and freedom to choose the lifestyle they find most fulfilling. The city is designed to serve the needs of every member of society.
I can hear the objections already from the naysayers; this is understandable and this is what often happens when a new idea is put forth. I look forward to a new model city, and to its becoming a norm. I might not live to see this day, but I sense that my children and their children will, and benefit from such visionaries as Jacque Fresco.

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