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An interview with "Subdivided" filmmaker Dean Terry
Isolation by design
John P. Meyer, Pegasus News
...If you live in a gated community or a new suburban development and find yourself feeling isolated and strangely removed from any sense of community; if you can't understand why nobody on your block spends time outside, or smiles at you when you bump into them, or bothers to introduce themselves; if you're tired of worrying about global warming and the war in Iraq and the bird flu and the imminent collapse of the global economy (and who is not?), then here's a new ill to consider: the design of your residential neighborhood and the very house (or castle) you live in may be adversely affecting your interaction skills, and those of your family. It might even be contributing to the local crime rate.
With all this in mind after viewing a pre-release version of Subdivided on DVD, I had an opportunity to meet with Dean Terry and ask him a few questions.
PegasusNews: Was it your personal experience as a homeowner that led you to move forward with this project?
Dean Terry: I grew up in Little Forest Hills. That was the 'hood for me. I used to hike the creeks with friends. That was my stomping ground 'til college. When I moved back to the Dallas area (after living in California), one of my first experiences with people in my new subdivision was when I saw this guy across the street mowing his lawn. I figured this would be a good opportunity to introduce myself, but as I walked across the street and the guy saw me, he turned and mowed his way into he back yard.
This is by no means something isolated to North Texas - during research for the film I learned about attitudes like this all over the U.S. in suburban residential areas.
Anger is a great motivator. I was angry because I came back (to Dallas), had settled down, was ready to make a family. I was ready to settle in and be part of the community. But there was no community.
First I was mad at the people (in the neighborhood). I was ready to scream at them. Then I learned that there were macro reasons inherent in the philosophy and execution of neighborhood design that were directly responsible for their isolationist behavior. The interaction dynamic functioned in a fashion similar to that of apartment complexes; I could tell there was something broken.
Through research into community design, I found ways that the problem could be corrected: by designing communities better to begin with, and by looking around for examples of how to build stronger communities.
As I watched people trying to build a stronger community over the course of making the film, my dominant emotion changed from anger to inspiration. It's not a bad thing to want to be somewhat insular & isolated, but I think most people want some kind of connection, and to feel a sense of place.
(1 Jan 2007)
Revenge of the Small
Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver are creating strategies to encourage the development of modest, more affordable houses
Karrie Jacobs, Business Week
Portland, Oregon. Seattle, Washington. Vancouver, British Columbia. In these three Pacific Northwest cities, the progressive power of urban planning is taken very seriously, and concepts like livability and sustainability dominate the local civic culture to such an extent that to visit all three in rapid succession, as I did in October, is to drop in on another country. It’s not the United States or Canada, but a more highly evolved combination of the two.
In each city I was impressed by major developments, dramatic projects that promised to refresh the urban landscape in conspicuous ways.
...what I found most interesting on this trip was not the landmark developments but smaller changes in the residential fabrics of the cities. All three are wrestling with the problem of affordable housing and have begun to encourage, or at least allow, the construction of well-designed small houses. While McMansion bans have been proposed in many cities-and have succeeded in a few-what Portland and Vancouver, and to some extent Seattle, are doing is more difficult and more interesting. They’re inventing mechanisms that say yes to small instead of no to big.
(26 Dec 2006)
Building the future
Chicago architects envision what the city will look like 100 years from now
Kevin Nance, Chicago Sun Times
Giant windmills, floating skyscrapers and an "elevator to space" in Lake Michigan. An automated 64-lane superhighway in the center of Chicago. Navy Pier reinvented as a year-round farmer's market. A system of underground tunnels through which people travel throughout the city and state. A network of water-recycling "eco-boulevards." Houses made of bioengineered trees.
These were among the mind-bending ideas for what Chicago might look like 100 years from now, presented as part of "The City of the Future: a Design and Engineering Challenge," a competition of local architectural teams held last month at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
... Garofalo Architects, with its leader, Chicago architect Doug Garofalo, surrounded by his young staff as he jots down notes on cards to prepare for his presentation to the jurors.
Garofalo's scheme is in some ways the most radical of the contest projects, envisioning the abolition of automobiles not only from Chicago but from the entire state of Illinois. In the team's vision, transportation (as well as shipping, heating and utility systems) would be accomplished by means of an "aeroduct," a network of underground tunnels along a one-mile-square Jeffersonian grid, with a station at every crossing point. The aeroduct would be powered by electricity generated by air drawn upward from below ground inside the walls of double-skinned skyscrapers. Old transportation systems, including the L and highways, would be converted to green space for use as recreational and/or arable land.
"The suburbs are sprawling to the west in not-so-aesthetic fashion, eating up land, being inefficient and creating an energy crisis," Garofalo says. "We don't like sprawl, but we don't think it will stop, so we're creating a kind of counter to it. In a nutshell, what we see ourselves doing is creating a different kind of sprawl and accelerating it -- bringing the sprawl back to the city in a different form, reintroducing the prairie and agriculture to an urban setting."
As seemingly unrealistic as the scheme is, Garofalo says, something like it will be necessary to avert a major ecological and energy crises in the next century. "If the world lived like Chicagoans do, currently we'd need six more planets by 2106 to find the necessary resources to support our way of life. It's hard to imagine how things are running now. It's absurd."
It's suggested to Garofalo that the average person examining his vision of 22nd-century Chicago might consider him and his team to be, well, nuts.
"And they'd be right," he says with a smile.
(31 Dec 2006)
WorldChanging has been running a series on "What's Next". Several items mention architecture and urban planning. For example:
Blaine Brownell: Foresight in architecture
Geoff Manaugh: Urban design and architecture.
Parin Shah on Urban Environmental Accords (video and audio)
Global Public Media
Parin Shah of the Urban Accords Institute talks about the 21 Urban Environmental Accords adopted by over 50 mayors from around the globe on World Environment Day 2005, and also discusses the oil independence resolutions passed by Oakland and Sweden.
(8 Nov 2006, but just posted)