urban sprawl/anthroecotecture etc.
From: Kyle Kuns (anecarprimenet.com)
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 1995 17:40:28 -0500
        I've been reading the mail generated by this list for about a few
weeks. I've found much of the discussion useful and interesting.  I've
noticed that most people contributing to the list either live in co-housing
communities or are trying one.  Since I don't live in or plan to live in a
co-housing community, I feel I should mention why I'm interested in this
list so that the proper "grain of salt" can be applied to my comments.
        I've studied architecture at the undergraduate level for a few years
and have worked in the field for four years.  I became a little disenchanted
with some of the default positions of architectural design (I find them to
be a bit too totalitarian) and went back to college to study cultural
anthropology hoping to put people at the forefront of the design process.
While completing the coursework for my degree in anthropology--which I
received last June--I also took several courses that emphasized
ecology--e.g. urban environmental systems.  Thus, as I left the university,
I felt that both people and their relationships to environmental systems
should be put at the forefront of the design of buildings.  I'm now
preparing to return to school in search of a Masters Degree in architecture.
However, I believe the first step in any building design process should be
an analysis of the environmental relationships, the possible social
organization of potential users, and the potential areas where changes to
the built form can easily be made by the users themselves after the building
has been constructed. All this should preceed any notions of building types,
forms, styles, materials etc..  My approach is therefore, people first, the
earth a close second, and design a distant third.  Thus I call what I hope
to do anthroecotecture.
        The co-housing movement has me optimistic about the potential for
people to be willing to accept non-mainstream and less suburban lifestyles.
That notions of community and sustainability is being discussed by intended
users who also happen to partake in the design process of the built form of
their neighborhood is most encouraging.  It's rewarding to see how this
movement is progressing and the issues that evolve from within the
community.  However, that people think that co-housing is somehow not a
suburban settlement pattern or that cohousing somehow contributes to the
reduction of urban sprawl is most unfortunate.  The following paragraphs are
for those who are interested in or in creating non-suburban neighborhoods
that truely do reduce urban sprawl.
        To address the question of urban sprawl a few principles from
ecology are important starting points.  First, the earth is a finite
resource.  Thus, more people means less potential resources per person.
People are part of the community component of the biosphere and survive
essentially from eating non-human members of the community component of the
biosphere--e.g plants and animals, but, not eating inorganic
substances--such as rocks--which form the other component of the biosphere.
Therefore, for the human component of the biosphere's community to survive,
some kind of balance of existence with the remainder of non-human species
that form the rest of the biosphere is required.  There are two fundamental
issues relating to the above mentioned relationships that directly
contribute to the concept of urban sprawl.  First, there needs to be enough
space for non-human members of the community to live so that human members
of the community can eat them.  Second, as human populations increase, the
non-human populations must also increase to maintain the same level of food
availibility for humans.
        Urban sprawl presents the problem that the human population is
increasing and spreading outward across the landscape.  Thus, there is
increasing space taken up by people and thereby less space available for the
community that supports people.  How does co-housing respond to this
problem?  Surely not by building a fraction of the residences in the same
space that other suburban models would build.  By not putting as many
residences on the same piece of land and then having a meaningfull amount of
undeveloped land left, how do any of you know that you aren't actually
living heavier on the land.  It might turn out that by putting 150
residences on a piece of land using the co-housing model might save five
lots.  That's like saying that your going on a diet by going to McDonalds
and ordering a few burgers, some fries, an apple pie, and a "diet" coke.
Putting less residences on the same amount of land doesn't contribute to
housing more people on less land.  It's the same horizontally oriented
approach that is a fundamental characteristic of urban sprawl.  Thus,
significantly more thought could be put into the notion of building up.  For
those who are struggling with the costs of land, this approach should be
helpfull.  The purchase of far less land would be needed to produce the same
or better relationship of built land to undeveloped or at least unbuilt land.
        The other thing I'm wondering about is the focus on residential
communities.  Why not mix things up and have true multi-use structures
within the community.  Perhaps a two story structure could have a lower
floor market and an upper floor residence.  Thus, people in the community
wouldn't always have to drive outside of it to get what they need, and
people outside of it would have a reason to come visit.  What kind of
neighborhood is it that isn't meaningfully connected to the other
communities surrounding it?
        The above comments may appear to be overly critical.  This is not my
intent as I respect what it is the cohousing community is trying to do.  I
don't want to discourage anyone.  I just want to help those who want to make
an impact on urban sprawl to actually make an impact.  I don't think
co-housing needs to make such a contribution to be a better form of housing
than other suburban settlements--which I believe co-housing is doing.       

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.