I don’t know many urban models. I grew up in a typical square one and then, when I was grown, I met medieval cities, with their concentric streets and walls.
A few months ago, visiting the Archeological Museum in Oviedo, I looked at the models of the fortified villages, with their walls, and I wondered what they defended themselves against. They defended themselves against the other fortified villages but, beyond being people of very violent habits, they defended themselves against scarcity.
What is considered scarce at any moment shapes the places we choose to live: from ports to windows, from the gardens and public parks to basements, from the wide streets to a market or a storehouse.The air, the light, the views, isolation, overcrowding, bridges, the sewers, common lands, schools and workshops, all are part of our lifestyle, whether desired or imposed.
Cities often have limits that are both historical and natural, other times they can expand as far as the horizon allows. Speculation, the State, weather conditions, real powers, real communities… all are part of forming the city and the immediate perceptions we have of them. But what happens when there are real or imagined communities that swim up stream and try locate their lifestyle in accordance with the place where they live?
Country clubs, suburbs, gated communities… are all ways of organizing the territory in such a way that that public spaces belong to the homeowners or the companies that administrate them. However, their major objective is the to provide a certain social status to their neighbors, providing items that are considered scarce: a socially homogeneous community of neighbors, fresh air, security, isolation. Distinction.
In some cities, the value of gated suburbs has came to mean so many things that there are even some that have the feel and layout of a poor neighborhood on the outskirts. Surely their inhabitants seek to differentiate themselves from their neighbors who live similarly but without a fence and a barrier in the doorway, maybe to feel a little closer to those in the same area who built neighborhoods with houses like something you’d see in a movie, with golf courses and swimming pools; neighborhoods where it’s the weekend every day of the year.
These neighborhoods grew out of a narrative of the search for more security (in any of the different definitions of the term), green space, peace and quiet, enjoyment and health, above all for the children. A kind of “back to basics” that the city doesn’t allow.
Is this not a similar narrative to ecovillages’ narratives?
Doesn’t someone who decides go to live in an ecovillage also declare they are getting “back to basics” in a way that blames the city for denying us our values? Aren’t they also seeking distinction?
I’m mainly talking about the ecovillages that have practically the same real estate business model (which happen to be the majority), even if they swap pools for common gardens.
People or landscapes
From the most luxurious, exclusive or original private neighborhoods to the most untamed experiences, it seems that the goal is a landscape, a scene that coincides with a fantasy. Your neighbors will have that fantasy in common.
As a member of the upper crust, you will look for matches with those want the same scenario for their lives, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a golf course or a common garden, that’s the point of contact. There is no common project, or shared objectives, only the need for distinction.
A different life project that does not include the variable “with whom will I move forward and how?” is just a search for a landscape. To leave the city, with the randomness of its common spaces and its neighbors, to build a fiction with people you decide to treat as equals because of their similar taste in pools or bricks, is less than a tourist experience, and is very different from projects between people who want to create alternative realities. Possible worlds.
Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)