Saturday, November 7, 2015

Quickies: A Step Towards The Arcology?

     Have a close look at this living-and-working concept being attempted in Syracuse, NY:

     SYRACUSE—This office looks like a pretty typical co-working space, what with the guy with a ponytail coding in one corner, the pile of bikes clustered in another, and the minimalist desks spread across a light-filled room. Troy Evans opened this space, CoWorks, in a downtown building here in February.

     Coworking is probably a familiar concept at this point, but Evans wants to take his idea a step further. On Friday, on the top two floors of the building, he’s starting construction on a space he envisions as a dorm for Millennials, though he cringes at the word “dorm.” Commonspace, as he’s calling it, will feature 21 microunits, which each pack a tiny kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living space into 300-square-feet. The microunits surround shared common areas including a chef’s kitchen, a game room, and a TV room. Worried about the complicated social dynamics of so many Millennials in one living unit? Fear not, Evans and partner John Talarico are hiring a “social engineer” who will facilitate group events and maintain harmony among roommates.

     Forget communes or co-ops. Millennials, Evans says, want the chance to be alone in their own bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, but they also want to be social and never lonely (hence #FOMO).

     I’ve just come back from the Commonspace Website, and given current socioeconomic conditions, I think the designer is doing the right thing at the right time. His prospective market is large and probably quite eager for something like this.

     However, the thought that immediately came to mind upon reading about Evans’s idea was the Todos Santos city-in-a-building Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle put at the center of their novel Oath of Fealty. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it, less for its entertainment value than for the glimpse it affords at a possible line of quasi-urban development.

     The originator of this concept of habitat is Paolo Soleri, a visionary architect. Though his original ideas were oriented toward harmony with an existing terrestrial ecology, enthusiasts have extended them to include economic and ecological self-sufficiency. His conceptions have been taken up with much excitement by space enthusiasts, especially those dreaming of permanent space habitats or generation ships for interstellar voyages.

     Troy Evans’s Commonspace squints toward the Todos Santos-sort of implementation of Soleri’s ideas. Indeed, though it could hardly be called self-sufficient, all the elements are present for an export-oriented micro-economy that would only need access to transportation and communication to be wholly viable...and situating it in a substantial city guarantees those facilities.

     I’ll be watching this development. Stay tuned.

4 comments:

  1. I'm reminded of the concept of a transpolis in the "Thousand Cultures" series by John Barnes.

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  2. This seems like a healthy thing. Single adults are faced with apartment living or buying a house, often in a suburb, as was my experience. A sense of community was non-existent and either had a girl friend, had office friends, or joined a church or social club. Contrast this with college where students often roomed together in apartments, which groups I found enjoyable and workable.

    This concept described here might reduce living space but maximize the opportunity for casual contact with, um, members of a small community.

    It's probably inevitable that entrance to the group would have to be controlled and that might be Achilles heel of the concept. Compatible roommates could make for a nice experience but when one moves on -- more likely in the school setting -- the replacement can sometimes not work out. Perhaps a large "deposit" might make self-selection a workable concept, something like how homeowners "buy in" to where they are. When owners turn to renters the neighborhood starts to go down.

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  3. I hope it takes off like wildfire. The more, the merrier. Folks that wish to live (?) in that fashion will leave the great outdoors open for those of us who would die if forced to live that way.

    Except it won't. The EPA or BLM or an administration that loves Gaia the way Obama loves islam will probably - eventually - force all of us individualists off of the land and into those kinds of rabbit warrens.

    Another thought: people who grow up living that way will most likely become rabid collectivists. They will have to do so. How else could they live under those conditions without accepting the "good of the group" over the rights of the individual? When the lack of privacy becomes commonplace, the need for privacy will be deemed a mental illness. Think Japanese.

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  4. I'll believe it works when I see it. My city tried something like that with a subdivision that had all the same type of elements but with small, beautifully designed open spaces connecting the buildings. It never really took off.

    And I thought Oath of Fealty had entertainment value as well, but I like Niven and Pournelle when they team up.

    But I might be an example of evolution in action.

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