Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Few Slides on Emotion as the Seed of Cities

Here and there I've mentioned the idea that emotion is the core driver of urban form and evolution, deeper than the many things we typically credit. It has remained only a tangential topic as I haven't fully fleshed out the supporting logic, but basically it is as follows, in a few ppt slides I've used in presentations before...

It starts with cities being the physical representation of economies, which appropriate goods, labor, production, skills, talent, etc. etc.

However, that doesn't quite answer a deeper question, why economies? Fundamentally, we have the various needs and desires as represented by Abraham Maslow:


I would posit that all economies are just a way of satiating these emotions. And over the years, civilization, through trial & error, have determined that things are best and most efficiently distributed through trade (exchange) and sharing of certain things, ie commonwealth - the things we can't afford on our own, like large-scale cultural facilities or things that could very well be priced like clean water/air.

The physical form of cities are then an assembly of the facilities for trade & sharing and the facilitation for doing so, ie transportation networks.

I've also included a few slides on authenticity vs. inauthenticity, suggesting that authenticity is part of this supply chain, where livability is a subjective measure of desirability (how attractive or repulsive various places are). Create places that appeal to our emotions, that are livable, they will then attract people, who populate the place, self-organize (form community), and express themselves through businesses, culture, etc. These expressions are what we refer to when we call something authentic, like Brooklyn is authentic and Manhattan isn't because it is all chains right now.

At least, that is the vague suggestion, but this supply chain from emotion to expressions of culture are what comprises authentic places.


I used Bishop Arts/Oak Cliff as an example and this little detail. The people who live there just so happen to like bicycling, and it shows... expressions. The authentic.

This remains a work in progress...but this is the jumping off point. My main impetus for digging into this idea is that there seems to be such an unhealthy level of distrust in Dallas at the moment, particularly from the citizenry towards the leaders (whether elected or otherwise). I find this tremendously unhealthy as distrust is a repulsive emotion.

It drives us away from each other. It causes us to build walls, and fences, and gates around everything. We build cities where buildings want nothing to do with each other, and very often people that want nothing to do with each other.

We need something positive to rally around. Something significant and meaningful to everyone. Otherwise we'll keep moving apart, which very well could undermine the productivity and efficiency engines that cities are meant to be.