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I35 Austin, Texas

One of the things you think about when you design a house is what’s going to happen when you bring home the groceries.  You don’t want to carry them far or haul them through the entire house, so you make sure the distance is short between the door you’ll be coming through with your groceries and your kitchen counter.  Makes sense right?  Well, what if someone gave you $100,000 that you had to use toward building a conveyor belt between that door and your kitchen?  That way you could just set the groceries on the belt and they would be pulled into the kitchen with little effort on your part.  So, now you can have all your doors far away from the kitchen and have a very long conveyor belt running through your home to transport you and your groceries to their destination.  Sounds pretty sweet, right?

No, it’s frickin’ idiotic.  It would be ugly, inefficient and a pain in the ass.  And yet, that’s what’s happening with bedroom communities across America every day, but on an even grander scale.  Where we once raised our homes in relation to things like schools, taverns, shops, and grocery stores, now we’re padding the distance between all of those places for no logical reason and it’s a mess.  Long strips of asphalt tear apart our cities and towns, eat up our green space, and we’re constantly trying to maintain it—paying for all of it over and over again—when we could just put the goddamn door by the kitchen.

But it’s not all about logistics is it?  The people who like their suburb and quiet cul-de-sac are not going to be swayed by the idea that their lives could be easier and more enjoyable if there was more in their neighborhood than just other houses.  They don’t want to worry about crowded noisy streets.  They need their space.

And here’s where I have to wonder if there may be a perception problem.  See, it’s not just about cities.  Don’t get me wrong.  Cities are fantastic.  In the city, there are leafy avenues, tower-lined boulevards, and everything in between.  You have variety in the city and the streets buzz with life.

But the city’s not for everybody.  The problem is that for those people who don’t care for the high energy of the city, they react diametrically—as if the normal reaction to freezing is to step into a pit of fire.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  There are varying degrees.  There is a way to employ logic and aesthetic at the same time.  And this has a great deal to do with balancing two kinds of social space….  The topic for mañana.