My Urban Village…An Invisible Utopia

“But-head” thoughts vied for my attention last night during our PDC class discussion of “Community-Scale Urban Design.” Three student teams brainstormed on the “ultimate” layout of a 1,000 person, 2-block Urban Village.  Our imaginations ran wild with lush gardens, efficient sun, wind, water and waste systems, community spaces dedicated to “wellness,” “workshopping,” and “sharing meals” wih wild organic architecture  linking so many people and resources together in mutually rewarding ways.  Still, the reality of transfoming any 2 existing SF city blocks into such paradises seems “but” a pipe dream.  In my experience as  a San francisco homeowner,  you’re lucky if the city lets you replace a dead street tree (for a steep fee!)  or a neighbor doesn’t report your (crying baby, barking dog, cackling hens, ravenous vines etc…) to the police.  Taking down fences is out of the question (believe me, I’ve asked).
But then I started taking a personal inventory of all the “small and slow solutions” in urban village/community-building/resource-sharing I’ve devised over the years—from cooperative preschools run from studio apartments and weekly cooking/meal sharing groups ,to my latest endeavor, NOPA neighborhood (garage) movie night—and a feeling of pride, a feeling of promise began to wash over me. These community-based “structures” may not have the visible, supportive architecture of future urban villages like The Global Citizen Center but they ARE wildly successful at bringing people and resources together NOW.

Other wonderful ideas I’ve seen popping up in SF include a community-supported canning project and the sharing of sewing/screenprinting/art studio space at Workshop SF. Would love to hear your comments citing other successful people- and resource-sharing “structures” that support your urban village here in San Francisco.  Looking for inspiration? Check out the social innovations proposed in this article posted at World Changing.com and a super-juicy research report by POLI.Design in Italy.