so fresh and so clean: future cities of earth
This city is a personal favorite of mine and founded on an infrastructure and economic system based around interactive game play, both between people and elements of the city. The idea is to create a city that is rich in interactivty, engaging person and city and ultimately providing an emotional, educational, communal or other reward. Game play engenders friendship, community and bonding, and when approached in a reasonable manner the possibility exists for team building and healthy competition.
This is a basic goal when introducing game play within cities, positive reinforcement and social bonding. The next is for the game play to be engaging and innovative. It is easy to imagine a team of game developers set loose in a city would generate creative ideas. The key idea here however is that the possibility exists through the technology of television, gaming, computers, WIFI and more to create a city with a positively rewarding game infrastructure. How this is implemented and the degree to which it is implemented successfully would be determined by the mind behind the craftsman.
A current and simple example is the Barclay’s Wheel-U-Wait in London. The link provided is to an online re-creation of the interactive queuing wheel. http://neave.com/barclays/
Even more creative and revolutionary ways to interject gameplay into city life are possible and, to my knowledge, barely explored in current cities.
City Landscapes, embracing what is natural
This idea occurred to me sitting on an early morning train in Berlin, Germany. Sitting in the train, watching the city go by in the distance, I realized the separation between the train environment in front of me and the natural one outside. With a simple vision I brought nature into the train; how striking it would be to embrace nature within a city. A train car interior designed in jungle leaves and branches. Waterfalls playing on the television between announcements. Street signs in taxonomy. Murals teaching about the use of medicinal plants and the dangers of poison. A group of city people embracing nature. Plants abound, morning glories bloomed on early morning street lights, ivory covered exteriors, cherry trees for picking and herbal tea on every street corner. A modern and sophisticated natural urban landscape of the future; this is the idea.
The idea comes in two parts and two cities. One, Berlin. The other, Athens.
The idea above is themed in nature, but in every way a modern city. The above embraces nature. The next idea immerses itself in it.
The trees remain standing, lanterns fed by underground gas lines fuel the night. It is a small town of a city, the first natural city on earth, more reminiscent of a tribal village or mountain town than a modern city. The people wear modern fashion, naturally themed and plain in color. The pharmacy is a quarter mile walk through the woods, following a path dead in the winter and bloomed in a profusion of color in the spring. There are no roads within the city limit and certainly no cars. Roads to the city remain unpaved. There was no need. 4-wheel drive vehicles transport potential city-goers and visitors to the outskirts of the city for the hike in.
Inside the city is navigated through a complex system of hiking trails, replacing city roads. The modern-tree house is a primary feature of the architecture here. 3-stories high attached to oak and housing a cafe where people spend the night cozy, drinking chocolate and reading.
Education is more balanced and the outdoors included more so in the process than within the cities.
This is as far I can go. My ideas end here, mainly and are better explained in a simple analogy. Walk along a trail in a state park, or a national forest. Implement elements of the city, everything you need for your daily life. Clothes, cosmetics, health-care, food and education. Envision walking the trails and coming upon everything you need. When you go hiking, at one point or another you leave modern society behind. Hunger is satisfied through foraging and water drunk from streams. The idea here is to bring together city and nature, without destroying wildlife in the process, without separating from it. There is no need for trees to be cleared in massive scale, no need for roads to be paved and streets created, and certainly no need to return to the city in need. This is not the future of every city but the possible future of one or many in the world. My point here is that natural landscapes hold enormous potential for integrative design and living a creative modern life.
Global Society, meet the World City
Feeling Based Economics
This idea is founded on the awareness that there is no separation between our internal thoughts and our external environment. This applies to the city as well as nature and implies that our thoughts are connected with what is happening around us. This observation occurred to me walking through the streets of Amsterdam. In Amsterdam bikes are prevalent and each bike is fitted with a bell, creating a classic, bright and happy chime. I spent my time in Amsterdam smoking and eating small amounts of cannabis and observing, meditating, listening and learning about life in the city along with and my interaction and effect on this urban environment. What I observed is that my thoughts were connected to my environment, in a way that is understood as positive and negative feedback, and this realization was triggered by the bells (among other things). The idea is simple: entertain a positive thought, receive positive feedback. Entertain a negative thought, receive negative feedback. The same applies to behaviors performed and their immediate effect on the people around us. Feedback includes car horns (negative, with an implication to Stop), ambulance sirens, smells, chimes, laughing, people speaking around you, etc.
Amsterdam isn’t unique in this respect. All cities and human interactions function on positive and negative feedback. Perhaps a friend left you with a brilliant feeling. Or a stranger left you with a bad taste in your mouth. Nature both follows and sets this rule. Bitter foods indicate potential danger and human beings universally prefer sweet foods for taste, nutrition and energy. The basis of communication itself is through feedback with our internal awareness and our external environment. To put it simply, we are in constant communication with the world around us, and through observing the feedback we receive we can gain an understanding of our effect on and place in our environment.
A rainy day is relaxing, dark, and with it comes a certain mood, feeling, and thought pattern. People who live in the often rainy and cloudy Pacific Northwest may develop a melancholic personality with accompanying depressed thought patterns. The same can be applied each unique environment we experience. To reiterate, there is no separation between our thought patterns and the goings-on of our environment, any environment, and every person is connected in with this thought-feeling matrix of constant communication.
Example One, a negative feedback loop.
You are sitting in a cafe working. You sit in quiet silence in a vacant room that smells pleasantly of coffee (a hint of positive feedback). You accomplish much because of your distraction free environment. Your productivity is affected and positive in outcome. Gradually, people enter the room and begin talking. Harsh metal music begins playing. The first twinge of frustration is felt. The volume increases. The chatter is annoying. Your mind jumbles. Someone laughs, a cackle. Your stomach cringes. Your trying to work. You have to finish. A person sits next you, smelling unpleasantly. He speaks to you. By now your frustrated and your productivity is nearing zero. Soon, you leave the cafe more angry than you intend and head straight for fresh air, a well-lit park, and soft light so you can finish your work. You experienced a negative feedback loop.
Example Two, a positive feedback loop.
This example is recent, and to my understanding an appropriate, realistic, and organic example of positive feedback. They were sitting having a conversation on a terrace overlooking the Acropolis in Athens. I arrived independent of the group talking behind me. Ten minutes of sitting alone, halfway admiring the view and observing my tiredness after a long bus ride during the day I speak up and with a simple question and introductory banter I’m included in the conversation. This continues pleasantly for an hour and a half. As my interest dies down, and my hunger and tiredness increases I decide to shower and find food in this late night city. I wait. And wait. Continuing the conversation, waiting on the right time. I’ve all but decided it’s time to go, and as I picture myself standing and leaving a thought-feeling occurs to me, “Stay.” Simultaneously a deliciously pleasant smell drafts my way from the flowers on the terrace, a first for the night, confirming my intuition. I stay. This is positive feedback between thought and environment. Had a rotten, sour smell drifted my way as the thought occurred I might have known not to stay.
Examples in the city are equally as intuitive and subtle, with some examples being easier to understand than others. The message is simple, however. The way out of negative feedback loops (and experiences) is through creating and embracing positive feedback, and the way to understanding feedback mechanisms within the city and your own life is through cultivating awareness.
Where this can be of benefit is when it is observed, understood on both an intuitive and intellectual level and then applied, essentially harnessed by a city and city-dwellers. All personal relationships depend on knowing when to stop, when go, when to speak louder, etc. Gain an awareness of when to stop, when to go, when to speak up, when to stay quiet and you benefit not only yourself but the group as well. The same applies to interactions within a city involving personal and group interactions.
Further, city sounds tend to be harsh and abrasive, creating a negative feedback loop, and if one lives closely to the city long enough, thoughts, feelings, and eventually the personality can become abrasive. This is seen through a longing for the peace of nature sought by the modern city-goer, along with the quiet tranquil sounds and the feelings accompanying natural surroundings.
In contrast pleasant sounds, smells, and experiences are universally preferred. Flowers are an excellent example of this. Roses could be said to exhibit little purpose than to be beautiful and fragrant, both creating a positive feedback loop between the human and his environment, creating positive psychology, and positive feelings to his life and surroundings. This idea remains virtually unharnessed on a creative and practical level by city planners, with art and architecture being the only notable example, and is the purpose of this writing.
Where this can be applied is universal in possibility, and the greater degree with which it can be applied skillfully the more refined the result. Creativity and understanding are the key here, and observation of patterns and connections within daily city life are the foundation for further understanding and progress. The opportunity here is for a city environment to make you feel good, to give you positive feedback and reinforce healthy interaction between itself and people. Like a warm smile versus a cold shoulder, or a pleasant Ka-Ching! at the sound of a purchase versus crashing plates or a dull Thud, the right sights, sounds and smells at the right moment can transform daily life in any environment, the city being no exception.
Alcohol Free and Clean
In the evolution of cities we must become alcohol-free and clean. It must be a personal choice. Outside obstruction through laws and regulations causes unrest. Like mommy taking the bottle away from the baby, forced governmental restriction of alcohol would create disharmony and outcry. Forced restriction is not the solution for personal and global alcoholism. The way forward is for humanity itself and each one of us to put down the bottle and release ourselves from the addictive behavior pattern and ill personal and social health that alcohol creates. The resulting sobriety will bring a more balanced personal and social atmosphere and the reality of the stumbling drunk gone with it. Alcohol engenders low-awareness, imbalance, and uncivilized behavior among a population and from a sober perspective is foolish, self-destructive and a symptom of deeper unrest between the user and his standing in the universe. Where and when alcohol use and alcoholic behavior became socially acceptable and encouraged is downright questionable.