Sunday, January 9, 2011

Not just any home

Success in urban design relies greatly on what dimension is used, the situations expected at any given time. Take Le Corbusier's Plan Voisin. In his drawings we see aerial views, plans, and sketches with towers in the distance, with a motorway figuring prominently. The human dimension, the street, is missing. Successful streets require the designer to think at all times at the street level, imagining the view from below and the kind of activities that can result. 

When I think about residential neighborhoods, a street view is essential. The emotions a place can elicit are crucial. Take a home, your home or one you like. Imagine leaving it in the morning a few days before Christmas to pick up a friend or relative from the airport. What is that journey like? Does your city or town provide the stage for this journey to awaken the kind of emotions a Christmas visit should? 

Getting off at the nearest transport station or drawing closer in the car, think about the streets that will greet you and your visitor, and finally, arriving at your destination or pulling up in the driveway, what sensation will your guest have? Awe, disappointment, happiness, regret? Is it the kind of home you can imagine your wife or kids running out from to greet whoever has come or must you first traverse a labyrinth of unpleasant stairs in an unpleasant apartment building? This being Christmas, will the journey's end have a holiday feel or is the time of year irrelevant? Will there be tears of joy? These are the situations, the questions I wish all homeowners would ask themselves. Your home is your second half, ideally. To me no less important than a girlfriend or wife, certainly equal to a friend. It's your home after all. What kind of life do you have if you can't feel proud of and as one in the place you live and breathe in? 

A neighborhood is a collection of many individual's and family's homes, the threads of many lives past and present. A collective mix of these threads and emotions form the psych of a neighborhood, build a community, and influence whether or not any one place can feel like home or just another stop in the road.