Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bickford! (finally!)

Constructing inequality
I know it took me a while to send this to my blog (hopefully I will tune up as days pass) and not as a cheap excuse but work has been creasy (dead line) and I tried to go the “extra mile” and I pay the price with delay! (other item on my list to work on!) I think if I can “survive” this next week and make to Boston in one piece I will do fine the whole program!!!!
Here it is:
My first thought was that this text was more related to the macro context – urban planning, an not too much to the architectural object; now I come to the conclusion that is a document touching a little bit of: men – society and effects – interactions between urban and the architectural object.
My first approach was going to be to provide a general analysis or the text (agree – disagree list – simple stuff) , but the text become such a personal “revelation” not just as a designer – Architect, but as an individual (member of a family, community, society, country and humanity) that I had to expand myself in order to get as much as could!; reason for which I picked ideas / notes / statements that were relevant for me and add a comment immediately after.
There were so many and diverse ideas that were detonated on my mind after reading several times the document (ranging from they way I interact with my political family to the way I respond to other individuals because the religious beliefs I have), but many of these I will develop (for personal gain) in my “parallel world blog”
I have to admit that I after reading twice the document, I had to have a process of “clarifying” concepts and terms in order to share a commune platform with the author (I was not “accepting” many of her premises, just because, even tough we have the similar ideas, she call it “potahto” I called “potato”,so I need it to clarify to understand her. From the most relevant:
a large and densely populated urban area; may include several independent administrative districts; "Ancient Troy was a great city"
an incorporated administrative district established by state charter; "the city raised the tax rate"
people living in a large densely populated municipality; "the city voted for Republicans in 1994"
A city is an urban area, differentiated from a town, village, or hamlet by size, population density, importance, or legal status. In most parts of the world cities are generally substantial and nearly always have an urban core, but in the United States many incorporated areas which have a very modest population, or a suburban or even mostly rural character, are designated as cities. City can also be a synonym for "downtown" or a "city centre".
A differentiated community with a sufficient population and resource base to allow residents to specialize in arts, crafts, services, and professional occupations.
a place where a large number of people live in close proximity to each other; more formally, a place incorporated as a city and therefore having specific political and administrative functions
(E): Large towns in common parlance. In the urban planning definition, towns with a population of one hundred thousand or more.
densely settled residential, industrial and business areas together with administrative functions which may relate to a wider geographical area. There is no generally accepted definition of the size of a city
A city is a unique government entity with its own special charter. Cities are not subdivided, except into neighborhoods which are informal geographic areas.
An urban settlement that is central to various functions such as administrative, commercial and social roles. It was originally the place of a bishopric/cathedral in medieval Europe.

This raises questions in me: small towns not having problems like big cites? Small towns do not have ghettoes?, why is that we define cities first by a “populated area” and not as “buildings occupied by people” area? Can it be a city with out a buildings and infrastructure? Can exist a city with out people? Is the definition of city the relationship of habitants and the architectural element?
For my personal benefit (and after reading the text a couple of times) I define city as: any permanent human settlement with the necessary infrastructure to their support!

The country in which a person is born (and has not renounced or lost citizenship) or naturalized and to which that person owes allegiance and by which he or she is entitled to be protected.
The ILM uses the current citizenship as criteria of origin of a person. It is a status which suggests a basic social and political attachment to a country and which implies political rights and duties as well as certain privileges. The citizenship of a person is usually that stated on his or her passport.
People who indicate that they were born in the United States, Puerto Rico, a US Island Area, or abroad of a US citizen parent(s) are citizens. People who indicate that they are US citizens through naturalization are also citizens. Naturalized citizens are foreign-born people who identify themselves as naturalized. Naturalization is the conferring, by any means, of citizenship upon a person after birth. People who indicate they are not US citizens are not citizens.
Citizenship is the status given to a legal member of the country. It involves rights, duties and privileges.
the status of a citizen with rights and duties
conduct as a citizen; "award for good citizenship"
Citizenship is membership in a political community (originally a city but now usually a state), and carries with it rights to political participation; a person having such membership is a citizen. ...

I am not a US citizen (witch is funny because I can be the perfect example of what Bickford calls “dangerous outsider” – never tough about me like that, and I could not resist but to let my wife know “I am dangerous baby!)
I was born outside the US and I am a permanent resident of this country. I can not vote, but I can buy a house, I can not have a federal job, but I can give blood the American red cross, I can not help decide for a levy to build a community library, but I have to pay the taxes that will build that library.
I am a hard working individual, I donate blood four times a year, I am participant member of my church, I keep clean the streets and go to the store, I buy houses and take my kids to the park; I use communities services and I am an active member of my local and state AIA, I am married to an US citizen…..I have two US citizen sons (blood of my blood) …… I not a “citizen”? Should I not be considered part of the city as a whole??!! ( I am dangerous baby!)
Then after all this (and with Bickford text already digested), I should be one of the most “tolerant” people in this county ( I thought I was) but sadly I come to the conclusion I am not!
For the poupuses of this exercise, I will consider myself as a citizenship. This is my definition of “citizenship” that the Bickford refer to:
“An individual, resident of a city (previously define), involved in any of the dynamics of it” (under this, even a tourist will become a “temporary citizen with rights and obligations- but other story…..)

characterized by or advocating or based upon the principles of democracy or social equality; "democratic government"; "a democratic country"; "a democratic scorn for bloated dukes and lords"- George du Maurier
belong to or relating to the Democratic Party; "Democratic senator"
representing or appealing to or adapted for the benefit of the people at large; "democratic art forms"; "a democratic or popular movement"; "popular thought"; "popular science"; "popular fiction"
The term democracy indicates a form of government where all the state's decisions are exercised directly or indirectly by a majority of its citizenry through a fair elective process. When these factors are met a government can be classified as such. This can apply to a multitude of government systems as these concepts transcend and often occur concomitantly with other types.

At first the concept of democratic that Bickford uses in her text, was leaving me with the sensation of “communism” or political party, but after having the exercise of definition, I could understand clearly what she was meaning with it: “a common good in appealing to social equality”

So I start my comments of Bickford text by stating that regardless some differences in opinion and some “if’ies”, I can see her point of view, maybe not fully accept it but certainly has enriched me and designer and as an individual by presenting a new paradigm in my life. From Bickford text I selected the ideas more notable for me and immediately after I comment on them:
“this essay attempts to reconnect political theory to the study of cities probing the link between built environment, public life and democratic politics.”, and I share her theory that there are forces with her theory “by doing so, we can discern critical and troubling dynamics shaping..”
It seamed to me the first time I read it was going to be a “romantic” view of how we live in an “unjust” society, putting the blame in others rater that the people. It proved the opposite (in my case – again to mention a secondary line of work not necessary dependent of this class / discussion, but intensely connected to the way I do things and consequently this analysis See

“… – communicative interaction opinion formation….”

It always appeared to me that the city was just the “platform of our actions”, but I can see now the important role that plays in our lives (or should play) promoting (or denying - limiting) interaction of and with its dynamic members (men) to achieve a collective benefit (what Bickford calls “democratic politics”). Now being a “patter families” I see the importance of all the member of my household to know and interact with ocher, to respect and promote healthy behavior and the great danger of not doing so.

“….built space shapes citizens….”

I concur that cities likewise households shape the character personality and influence the relationships of its members, not just provide them for a “place” but they are a catalysis for their relationships and interactions that will / should / must develop the personalities, values and intentions by witch they govern their lives.

“…..urban – suburban hostile to democratic participation….”

I always have considered the suburbs as a very wasteful use of land and recourses, but it was not until I confronted my self and points of view, that I realized I have idealized the “false protection” and “security” that this “segregated places” might provide; it was a revelation the fact that I never saw them as a “hostile” member of the whole (city) that is not just creating practical problems but actually encouraging social pathologies
architecture – constructing subjectivity, then I started thinking about this concept, not understanding it fully (and not jet) but coming to a pointing in witch I see that architecture might be subjective (not just in a esthetically) but when represents security for one segregation for other. My “opposition to this thought is that this subjectivity was a “given” from the moment men started searching for the “commodity” of a roof above his head and incorporating personal values to it! It becomes an object of “decoration” and social status and thus subjective.

“….the world is constructed ….. adversely affect how we regard politics and who recognize as fellow citizens”

very similar to my comments above; I understand the concept, its like when I set rules and promote behavior in my kids (mostly intentionally) oriented in such a way for them to avoid fight, but simultaneously (unintentionally) promoting inequalities and distinctions, I am adversely affecting them and the way they will interact in the future! So I see how a dysfunctional polices might encourage bad relationships between citizens!
Now this is appoint in witch I have (if not a difference opinion than the author), a more “natural” approach to it , because we need to be careful not to promote a “forced equality” for equality sake, but to understand that there are characteristics that might create separations and distinctions and this is fine
I have a natural tendency to group with persons that like me, enjoy food I enjoy, share common values, that laugh off the same jokes! Now it is true that we need to be open to others, respectful and inclusive so we can have a more richer life, but at the end of the day, all of us, intuitionally, we carefully surround ourselves from people who accept us, tolerate us and wish the best for us; we look out for each other, that give us a scene of belonging, provides security,….. Animals do the same…..that is just natural: cluster by affinities this is natural! And the segregation group that it produces can be good; in the midst of “distance” you can find beauty!

“purify spaces of fear, discomfort, or uncertainty”…”but its pursuit has real and dangerous consequences”…”enacts deeps forms of segregation…”……. “energized by….practices and polices”….

This is the part in which (regardless of my previous statement), I come to find that I do have fears (that I thought I did not have), that I do look for protection from entities that are different form me, and that I react to discomfort thru segregation!; and I can see that wrong practice and polices make the “process” easier. (I will like to change!)
How ever I think, not from the “human nature” position, but just as a “normal creature behavior” partially this is ok! I think is the capacity that the men has to “choose” that separate him, the capacity to choose not because is beneficial, but because he likes or dislikes. It’s just the intention and the reasons we have to make a selection that might be the problem! My original stand was: Call me what ever you want but I do not want my kids and wife around a dangerous places, with questionable friends and / or acquaintances and specially, I wan to provide them with good opportunities of “healthy” growth,…… but maybe the important point here is that I (we) can teach my kids (our kids) and mainly I (we) can be myself (ourselves) : a positive influence for others, that they can contribute to a place to make it safer, that is with the circumstances and a clear vision of life that every situation always presents a good opportunity for them! (this is a choice as well!)

“….cities …places where strangers regularly encounter..”….”……..human experience…” … “vitalize a sense of public identity that relies ….on the creative disclosure of a public self through speaking and acting with non intimate others…”

I remember on time my Pastor mentioned that we are not intended to be “within” the church but outside the church; not separating from others, but integrating us and being a positive influence in the community and society in general. This definitely has a new and powerful meaning for me after reading this article!
I strongly agree that the only way to truly create community is when we are interacting with each other; when we open ourselves to “danger” “exposure” “ideas” “discomfort” as a choice to improve the equality in our communities. This exposure is truly the only way by we can have a clear idea of what our city is like, what our fellow citizenship are like, and then help to provide a respectful environment for all to fellow citizenships (what ever their individuality is) in our society! I can see how segregating “geographically, urbanely and architecturally” can be a “separation” for encounter such as this and we are required if not to change it , to point it out.
“public realm relies on the ….innumerable perspectives…sees and hears from a different position. This is meaning of public life.
Yes I think public realm (mentioned before – awareness of others!) is intrinsically necessary to have a hetly society (democratic), however I see as well the need of having boundaries, limitations that will set the rules of this interactions: tolerance, respect, cordiality and such! (there needs to be limits / boundaries!!!!)

“….the way our cities look reflects a great unreckoned fear of exposure…..”
“…illusion of safety for some at the expense of actual danger and discomfort for others”
“they are both undemocratic both because of that inequity and because they attempt to substitute one perspective for any, …”
“…..the security of some people is increasingly encroached upon as others attempt to secure it from themselves"

and sometimes there are going to exist certain “injustices” or flaws, and its just like the expression “life is not fare!, but we have to recognize this: liberties from some cannot happen through the limitation of others liberties. Benito Juarez a president of Mexico said: In between the nations as in between the individuals, the respect of the others rights, is peace”

“suburbs …sterility nd uniformity…isolating and segregating effects…drain resources..”
“property values – not fairness, freedom, privacy or diversity – is the ruling consideration”
“what counts as civic virtue is maintaining property values.. social responsibility is paying homeowners association dues”
“result of deliberate institutional policies…..not a impersonal market forces..”
“secession of the successful’

this is were I was having a great deal of joy, when I gladly discover that not everybody in the US is ruled by the “American rule of gold”: “ the rules are maid by those who have the gold”. In every aspect of my “American life” (except Church) everything seams to be moving, decided and selected because economical reasons (selfish and individual motivation at the end if you ask me!)….at least this has been my experience.
In order to “survive” my jobs, I had to “relearn” the idea of purpose and intention of the Architecture (use to be that architecture was the interpreter of the collective desire, the servant of a society): but in the US appears to me that: happy customer, happy employer consequently happy employee!(boss not fired: I am not fired) So I learned the dynamics of architecture in the US: as long as we are making a profit! It has come to my attention that is for those who can pay it, who can afford it or ultimately use it for it personal purposes! (That is what I think as the “secession of the successful’)

““gates” take a variety of forms…”“gates construct and manifest social relations – in this case, segregation….to actively construct relationships of separation…” “loss of freedom is a price for “security”

This was a very interesting, specially coming from a culture where “fortified” homes are the standard and not the exception, where having security gates and security window screens where expected and where we found a great deal of “sense of security in the moment our home has a 9 foot tall brick fence around the propriety! It’s sill in me the feeling of “non protection” when at home, because the back yard is a wood fence about 6’ tall and the front yard is open to the street!!! (Not considering the fact that my hose is built with wood!!!!!!! (talk about a feeling of “danger” hot dog lettuce and tomatoes!!!!! I am dangerous baby!)

“…gentrification….strangely purified one…....”
“…are made to feel distinctly unwelcome”
“……the build environment of urban space is designed to… its purpose of segregation…”
“……the constructions detailed in the previous sections exhibit distinctly anti political impulses toward exclusion, control, security, sameness and predictability……..”
“…specially this environments function to establish and secure relations of threat……”
“ ..those who do not look or act like them…increase discomfort…. exclusion for.. the unknown…”

in this particular section, I can see the point of the author, but is still in me the idea that this to certain extent is a natural process: there are certain places that are dangerous and you should be not there, and nature tells you so, regardless if feel you have the “right” to do so or you just simply “feel like doing so” (edge of a cliff, volcano crater, water fall, etc….). We need to have certain rules and limitation that will provide the adequate platform in witch all can be heard and heard others, but never the less, rules must to be set, boundaries need to be define! (Natural order)

“experience others is through media stereotypes” “ bounded space that determines who and what we perceive. ..” who we think as citizens..”..”…we begging to imagine that “the world” consist only of those inside our gates”

I am going to have to take this thought and “pulverize” it more in depth, (something to do in my “parallel” blog). However is very interesting to think that we might be designing and interacting to whom “ we think as citizens” with our realizing the “unnatural selection” we are doing. The problem here is that we might think as designers to design for all with the only considerations made for those that we might have “natural tendencies of assembly” and leave outside those who we might not!

“…..the shared danger ….losing….the possibility of a democratic public realm, one that depends on the presence of a multiplicity of perceiving and perceived others….”

This is for me one of the things I did not caught in my first readings of the text, and it’s in my opinion the fundamental reason for which we are “obligated” to promote “democratic politics”. Not just because is a thing to do, but because the great consequences that might bring if we do not address this issue. This is a fundamental factor that can help alleviate the problem of democratic inequality, it’s on the direct line of fire and just need to be put in action!

“controlled residential space…imposition on privacy and freedom”
“…..home is idealized as a place of nature and safety….mask conflicts and inequality…..”
“… we are driven to push others into one category or another…..”
“…..institutionalized consciousness – raising…crucial for social change…”
“moral exhortation to be open to risk lose of self and lack of control”

again I think about his a simple as simple “nature”, something we are born with and that we definitely need to change, but that is a result of a personal decision, not one that drives form the “architecture” or is consequence of “democratic politics. I my opinion this last two will not efficiently address the problem. For me this is more related to the cultural values and the society in witch we live as a whole, one individual at the time. And then we can dress the general changes of the community as a whole!

“to be careful about demonizing fear as deeply undemocratic”
“nor is clear what actions certain fears might justify”
“these are challenging and disturbing judgments to make and part of the uncertainty that enclosed spaces help us avoid is the uncertainty of how to act with respect to a disturbing stranger”
“….casting the solution in terms of individual risk taking and responsibility ignores the more structural means by which fear and desire is produced and propagated…..”
The special relations built into modern life cannot be thought of as primarily reflection of desires social relations, for they also produce and form those relations”
“…institutions govern as structure how citizens experience each other and how they experience the build environment…”
“…..we might approach the change by looking at the decision – making institutions that permit and encourage undemocratic building practices….”
“how jurisdictional boundaries structure urban citizenship ..”fragmented institutions”
“…residential space is precisely the context in which people are least able to tolerate diversity”
“….rather that possessing a singular distinct identity, then, urban and suburban spaces should be fuzzy and multilayered…”
“overlapping” “mixed used spaces”
“tightly linked to the options that that political institutions allow, encourage or prevent”

It interesting to finally see the author come to the premises that we need to be careful to understand that her point of view is not the only one and the main solution to the problem , but a detonating of change, a proposal for the solution of it, and how some practical action directed to the decision maker of city planning and development should / could be taken.

“…..decentralization….increases racial inequalities and segregation..”
“……wealth areas from keeping all their resources form themselves…”

in this section I had some “troubles” to see (or try to see) the Bickford point of view and use of concepts. It looked again to me as a very “communist” concept “to take from those who have and give it to those who do not” but at the same time if I see it as the way this “format” of communities are promoting isolation, well, that I understand; then if thru that the concept of openness to other communities and the sharing of resources is seeing as we see a household I can see it happening.
Still I can argue about the “unfairness” that this peruse of “fairness” might produce. Give equality to ones by taking the freedom of others!!! It’s like prohibiting to prohibit! (just not very logic for me!) and some how contradicts her own statement : “but when some people’ peruse of a purified notion of privacy has significant impact on others and on the public realm, its surely a matter of concern for a democratic public. What this means is that there is so much privacy and privacy –related liberty that citizens can claim” and to: “in this culture, most of us are already socialized to acknowledge that not all desires should be acted on!” for me is a matter of principal, a fundamental part of freedom: you live according to your means, you do not take what is from others, but mainly in the intent of not letting other limit your freedom you can not and should not affect others freedom to have for what they work for!

“……but in terms of awareness of different perspectives…”
“….outside togetherness”

After reading the document several times I have not just changed my initial perspectives and opinions of Bickford article, , but actually has become a catalysis in my persona when has make me aware of personal errors and philosophies to adjust, but the most terrifying reality: I have been an acting accomplish to this phenomenon of segregating myself and in the process others, justifying it by reasons of affinities!
The best revelation I take with me is that I need to reevaluate and change my perspectives I use to have regarding “democratic politics” and general life
My non defined but always present statement : “I tolerate you, I will include you, I will embrace you regardless of your different perspective………as long as they are similar to my “different perspectives” is not longer the premise!

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