Limited Expansiveness

Sirius, 2006, by Lita Albuquerque, photo by Jean de Pomereu (Go to: Domus)

From 1800 to 2000, planning, engineering and architecture, served to create a vast expansion of the urban world. It was not until the beginning of the 21st century that the consequences of this work turned elusively unpleasant.

In 2010, over eighty-five percent of Americans and half the world live in the midst of the urban world and yet it remains a vague notion.  Perhaps “go to work, go home, go play” and repeat is enough, but I don’t think that is correct. Despite the super-usefulness of dense urban living, the word “city” stays threatening to many.  From low-density suburbs to the towers of Manhattan’s east side the city has to work, it is all we have and look out of any window, they don’t seem to work very well.

All settlements have finite political boundaries that yield the average number of people (or workforce) per square mile, kilometer, hectare, or acre per year or decade by day and night.  Density is a ratio of a building’s size to lot area.  It can include a percentage of total floor area expressed as green space, parking lot, setback, even balcony.  Determining the potential of density in these places starts with measure.s of mass in volume and the services of well-being. The integration of self-awareness with community awareness in this way demands the urban world to stand before Nature and an essential, untouchable Wilderness, bow and ask forgiveness.

Medically, the term “critical” means ‘short term’.  Its frequent use in the 21st century is telling on many fronts. The epidemiological characteristics of urban settlements present a series of disasters.  I see novelty and opportunity here because only a third of the earth’s landscape is urbanized and each part of it is instructive of an adaptation to restraint.  The densest regions are near a natural resource and an ocean.  They range from heartbreaking failures to soaring enclosures of fully actualized human potential. This duality is now squarely before the change makers.

The densities of metro areas such as New York or Los Angeles are abstractions as they are without a stable boundary.  The purpose of the articles that will follow is to make a boundary, to draw a line around “the city” and to stop it in its tracks.

Everything inside that line will become super urban, all found outside will become less and less so.  A win/win for all is implied.


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