To understand what makes a community project malevolent, we must clarify what makes up the physical creation of a neighborhood.
For the most part, Americans as a whole are pursuing narrower agendas and withdrawing from public life into private realms, encountering the world through television, smart phones, and computers. Urban development, a key aspect to combating the decline of civic life, must encourage interaction between citizens and not the opposite. Public life necessitates environments where people meet as equals and the absence of a public realm leads to people unlikely to meet. This is why, when it comes to development in urban nodes, we must invest in smart urban developments that:
- Create mixed-use destinations that cater to people, not cars – It is malevolent for urban nodes to remain single-use. Astute urban projects encourage walkability, not the car, by mixing uses that are accessed throughout the day. It is destructive to urban nodes to insist businesses close earlier, or to force them to remain single-use. Single-use zoning ensures that areas would only be in use at certain times, making them inefficient as a resident would always have to travel somewhere else to buy consumer goods and employees will always have to travel elsewhere to sleep. Given the dearth of public transit in Indianapolis, this most likely means that these people would drive. Thus, the best thing we as a community can do is invest in dense, mixed-use neighborhoods that offer stimulation to the pedestrian. This is turn will lay the framework for more adequate public transit. In addition to being unsustainable, developments that nurture to cars are aesthetically unappealing and dangerous. Auto-orientation means fewer choices to walk which creates empty streets, and with less walkers the less safe streets feel, etc. making them tantalizing for criminals. Given several uses throughout the day, windows of buildings and extended pedestrian activity into the night act as“eyes on the street” (aka Jane Jacobs) that deter crime. What NIMBYists have not understood is that these practices, in fact, increase the likelihood of crime by decreasing pedestrian activity. Criminals will not commit injustices if they feel someone else will see them.
- Mix socioeconomic structure – Although, an effective branding tool for developers responsible for the profits of a project, it is malevolent for an urban environment to allow residential developments to become entirely exclusive, especially to affluent individuals. How can progress as a society happen if we do not have opportunities to face others from varied backgrounds? Like it or not, cities are born not from wealth but basic human need for productivity, opportunity, and proximity to society. Obviously this draw will attract some of those less desirable on the socio-economic chain. By allowing developments to remain exclusive to only those that can afford it and then fitting those developments with resident-only businesses and cafes, we effectively take away the public realm that drew people to cities in the first place. The more self-satisfying, self-centered our society becomes, the less empathy we will find we have -a dangerous slope. Cities are the place for opportunity but what will the future of our cities look like if the opportunity to interact with various backgrounds is negated?
- Create human-scale streets! – It is malevolent to use lazy design in neighborhoods. We touched on several of the principles of “good” design Monday, but to reiterate: human-scale developments should create architectural enclosure because people are naturally attracted to places with well-defined edges. Street walls should ideally be uninterrupted, capturing comfort. Ground floor commercial usage should have continuous windows that engage and activate the street to pedestrians.Outdoor setbacks, plazas, and sidewalk cafes should be designed as outdoor living rooms. Also, tree lined streets are encouraged to create spatial dimension that accommodates our evolutionary instinct -our ancestors hid along treelines for protection and to safely see what was in the field beyond (this is why columns are prominent throughout world cultures). Fortunately, these design practices are not difficult to implement given the pedigree of most developers/architects, all it takes is a little push and some creativity.