Wednesday, October 21, 2009

He's Apparently Electrified. Is He Magnetic?

I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how many principles of the natural sciences apply to urban studies and settlement patterns, particularly spurred on by the article Math of Cities. The obvious correlations that have been made already are biology (the Transect), Sociology (anything William Whyte related), Psychology (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), Ecology (natural preservation via density), etc.

The introduction of Math on a level beyond the "dismal science", however got me thinking about the idea of Fractals, which are infinitely complex yet typically defined by very simple rules. For example, water wants to find its own level, yet the manner in which it does provides us with stunning waterfalls, lakes, rivers, puddles that have soaked the bottom three inches of my pant legs, yada yada.

I always liked my old Physics classes and have been captivated by the boundless applications of the principles of attraction and repulsion.

Attractive public space vs. Repellent public space as personified by my models here.

Without getting into the fine-grained detail of it all, in sum I've discovered that all places (streets, parks, plazas, cities (macro), or even businesses (good food, good company to work for, etc) are either attractors or repellents. They are magnetic. Of course, there are always barriers to magnetism such as distance, access or lack thereof, awareness, etc. A street for example, can either be a barrier (too wide, traffic to fast moving, etc.) or a conduit (something that facilitates access) or a seam, becoming an attractor itself (many of the great streets of the world could be defined in this manner).

This is my point about sociopetal and sociofugal. All places and all details within those places contribute in some degree to whether a place attracts people or repels them. Agglomerate enough of a certain "polarity" in a specific location and the magnetic pull is multiplied. Writ large, these become the great cities of the world.

This background brings me back to my most recent walk through AT&T's plaza and my last post about Golden Boy extending the success of Main Street as an attractor.
If I was to have one criticism of AT&T and the plaza improvements, I would have put Golden Boy outside in the center planter, at its most prominent point. Frankly, it's a pretty cool and unique statue. AT&T occupies all of the buildings surrounding the plaza, so why not use it to tie all the pieces together.
Yes, I'm saying it again. Who's got two thumbs up and is a broken record? This guy.
/remembering his Frederick Douglass, "Agitate, agitate, agitate."

**side note. Kudos to AT&T for showing the Red River Rivalry on their new LED boards in the plaza. I was in the plaza pre-game and only noticed a few people who had lugged out fold out chairs to watch the game. Two things: I don't believe this was advertised in any way. Those that found out, most likely just heard the game from the loud speakers resinating throughout downtown. Second, there needed to be some concessions. Hopefully, my theory that this plaza will be an asset to the Main Street area will prove right and this will become a more successful plaza then Victory (other AT&T plaza), as it is a convergence point rather then at the end of a virtual cul-de-sac (Victory).
Golden Boy's previous home. Sad, isn't it. He's so lonely. And jumpin' jeezus is that a hideous building. See, architecture can be sociofugal as well.

Now, he's only available during "regular business hours" but who cares about it him if he's indoors? Why take him out of the suburbs, bring him into the City (for which AT&T is admittedly doing boatloads for), and then lock him up? He's obviously weather-proof and they have twenty-four hour security in and around the plaza to protect him (not to mention the increased activity he would generate would help protect him as well). If he was outside once, he can be outside again.

If he was outside in the middle of this plaza, he would become an instant attraction for what is otherwise mostly just a well-landscaped and fountained cut-through. People would take pictures of him, they would sit around him and have lunch, etc. Furthermore, he would show how committed AT&T is to the City and how intricately tied together in mutual vision the two entities are, while tying together their own campus as its central feature.

See, look. He brightens up the plaza already!!!

Lastly, and this gets to the point of attraction as well, is that he would terminate Akard St. from the South. Providing a dramatic, visual terminus and make a nod towards South Dallas as well as all of that vacant land near City Hall and the Convention Center (too great big repellents themselves - although they don't have to be) that "you are part of the city too." It's just a shame we're asking a private enterprise to do the City's work.

Privatized urban planning. Hooray!