Monday, June 22, 2015

Urban planning; a disaster in principle

From sea to shining sea, one constant in urban planning is the desire to build ever taller buildings to house ever more people--we have been seduced by the mantra that it is more efficient and more humane to build taller with green areas in between the buildings, and the memorials to this thinking include Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis and Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago.  Mercifully, none of these abominations still stand--it was learned that community simply broke down in these inhuman buildings.

And did I say "from sea to shining sea"?  Well, I should have added "across the sea" as well, as in England, they did the same thing to a working class city named Everton, famous for its football club and rivalry with neighboring Liverpool.  It raises a simple question; are there limits of scale beyond which cities ought not progress? 

Certainly the examples I've mentioned would suggest this, and we might also note that people often choose smaller towns, smaller colleges, smaller churches, and smaller employers for precisely this reason.  For that matter, the governmental doctrine of federalism is based on the economic doctrines of Hayek and von Mises, where limited knowledge makes central control impossible.

In other words, there is a point where we lose our economies of scale, and in housing, it appears to be when a bridge is crossed from dozens of units to hundreds or thousands of housing units, or perhaps once the roof is over 100 feet from the ground.   We might do well to look at those old city and old world communities and figure something out before we try again.

Many thanks to friend "Mansie Wauch" from Liverpool for introducing me to the "Lost Tribe of Everton". 

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