Forgive me if I don't make sense in any of this but I just traveled halfway across the world in a day. That used to be inconceivable, but so was flying. Sounds like we have all had some very interesting experiences since we have been home and while we were traveling there. I read Mike's post and it jogged my blurry memory of one of my flights to the other continent, Alaska.
I usually am a little similar to the person Mike sat next to on an airplane. I don't really enjoy just sitting for 5 hours at a time inches next to someone I don't know and probably will never see again, so I bring a magazine and my ipod to entertain myself. Well when I sat down on the flight from Seattle to Anchorage I for some reason began a conversation with a young man my age that lasted some three and a half hours. Amazing conversation that hit on multiple topics that focused around the built environment in Alaska. He also grew up in Alaska just outside of Anchorage in a suburb that has been expanding tremendously in the last 10 years. He just built himself a house with the help of his friends in the middle of a classic developmental mentality town. All of the houses look very similar and only a few select contractors were allowed to build in this area, with himself being the exception because he works with these contractors. Not to bore you but I am going somewhere. We talked about a Alaska's image, what sense of place Alaskans are trying to show and he was as bewildered as I have been why people do not try to engage it. I found it very interesting to sit down next to someone my age and have very similar outlook on our sense of place. So my thoughts, how do I engage this generation, the one that will change my lifetime that will in turn set up a change for the next generation. I feel the key is in the design, in the questioning, in the process.
Research Paper Thoughts:
Three towns, largest being Kenai, Alaska 7,000 population, second being Nikiski (5k) which is 12 miles North of Kenai and then Soldotna (4k), which is 10 miles South of Kenai. Each city sprawls into one another and none of them have a sense of place. They are very linear in nature, most buildings are single story with the exception of a few two and one three story building. The community does not walk, it drives. Everything is at a distance, I want to go the post office, 15 minute drive. I want to go to the grocery store, 7 minutes. The other notable large problem is the image projected to the people that inhabit this community and visit the community. Residents have very limited design criteria and are often wanting to accomplish the largest program for the lowest price. In turn each building has any lack of character and materiality is something unknown.
The nature of the problem is in a few different area's. The one I would like to explore is in the Psyche. People do not see the reward in a well designed place nor community. They do not know what experience will be gained if they had the opportunity to live in a place that reflects more than the lowest budget possible. The community is a product of a large boom in oil and fishing both of which were not concerned with establishing a place for a community. Most oil workers work then fly home to another state. The money that showed up in the 70's has been used to build oil related buildings, which are some of the most dysfunctional looking places. The fishing community is built on the morals of survival. This sad state of affairs is an unusual one because it is built on some of the most beautiful land with a world famous river running through the middle of these towns.
The community that resides in this place now are here to stay if they can. They still mainly are the result of good jobs to do with oil and fishing but many other people and services are there to help that endeavor. The community even with their disarray has a very strong sense of pride for their community and their relationship to the larger whole or state. Its this that I would like to engage.
The community needs something that might engage them. To question what exactly they live in. They are in need of an example of design that relates to their scale, function and atmosphere. Going into a city and running out of your car to go to the post office and then running back to your car to get groceries to do the same and then driving to the bank to do the same thing again is a dysfunctional realm.
If there was an example to show how buildings might function in close proximity to help keep a sense of place. Not only would this product function well pragmatically it would also function to stimulate there being. There has not been an investment in the experience of the user and if it was the community would invest back in that change.
A community that perpetuates itself to question its environment. This is what is not here. The questioning of why my town is set up to function the way it does. If a town could function to question for example, why we are going to build a bank at this particular location versus any other location and with these materials versus any other materials, it might be able to function as a whole, not for the betterment of the individual investor but for the total community.
Please feel free to let me know what you feel, see, think, smell and hear about this issue. Thanks.