Friday, September 7, 2007

873 The Language of Space

Message no. 873[Branch from no. 845] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Wednesday, April 25, 2007 4:55pm Subject: Re: Relational Summ..Varshawn

Glad this chapter caught your attention Varshawn, and thanks for the insights-- you are quite right in your analysis of archetecural determinism, and as you may have figured out, I am a big believer in it. The best description of the phenomena I have read is in the chapter on "The Language of Space" in the book "Critical Mass" by Philip Ball. He says, in response to the idea that designers don't often design with the occupants comfort in mind, "there is more to all this than poor planning. Urban design... is political. "The nineteenth century dreams of a social order, in which the benefits of capitalism are retained through the creation of a quiescent working class, are dreamed in a strongly spatial form." IN other words, urban communities were redesigned in the Victorian age to reproduce and reinforce social hierarchies... Urbanization tended to increase and diversify people's interactions up until the time when new templates for planning were introduced during the Industrial REvolution. Whether consciously or not, these templates reduced social encounters and fragmented communities, discouraging collective activity and keeping people passive under an imposed authority. High-rise blocks, for example, pack living spaces together densely while reducing the frequency of encounters that generate a sense of social solidarity. "It is wrong to say that high-rise estates are unsuccessful... for their unmanifest purposes of community reduction they are extremely successful." (page 140)

This is the same argument I used when I was a teacher in the ghetto. The newspapers would say "our schools are failing". I would say, "Our schools are succeeding in doing what they were really designed to do -- to keep the "working class" poorly educated so they will consume without thinking, work at jobs that nobody likes without questioning the futility and waste of their human genius and prescious time making somebody else rich, and fight wars they barely understand without questioning the leadership." In doing this our public school are supremely successful.

Notice that most public schools in the inner city are surrounded by barbed wire fence, and have security guards like a jail. Is this to keep people out or to lock people in? Another example of architectural determinism?

I'd love to hear you ideas about this!

Good summary!


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