Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Good bye, Gjøvik!

  • Why didn't you want to understand me?
  • Why didn't you want to love my family?
  • Why didn't you want to see my beautiful daughter grow up?
My wife wanted to fill our garden with flowers, and she made a good start. In the Gjøvik song the town is told to be a place of flowers. So why didn't this town make a fertile ground for her?

Another of my wife's makings

One of my images of Gjøvik on Wikipedia. Before me the town of Gjøvik was really badly introduced on Wikipedia, the article of Gjøvik was a shame compared to the ones of her siblings around Lake Mjøsa, the towns of Hamar and Lillehammer. I'm sure my gallery of Gjøvik and the improvements made from my gallery has meant a lot for marketing and goodwill of the town. So that we have to leave is a shame!

Two times before we were forced to leave our home here in Gjøvik, because of cigarette smoke. This time we have to leave because of anti-biophilia and a missing commons. It's told that all good things are 3, but for us the third time was the worst. So now I give up the town of Gjøvik, as we seems to be like cursed here.

My vision was to make Gjøvik a center for Pocket Neighborhoods in Norway! I was even once contacted by Mr. Ross Chapin himself, the "primus motor" of the pocket neighborhood - movement of the USA, as he had found interest of this blog.

I really cannot understand how anybody can hate and disgust something as beautiful as pocket neighborhoods!?!

Why do Norwegians hate pocket neighborhoods?

Why do Norwegians embrace Suburban Hell? Here a Suburban Hell from Gjøvik.

It's like Norwegians are unable to connect quality of life with anything else than what the fabulous urban writer Nathan Lewis has named Suburban Hell. We only import the worst of american culture, like Suburban Hell. Pocket neighborhoods are now popping up all over the USA, while in Norway we continue like madmen with building a Suburban Hell of our whole country! Suburban Hell can only be compared with junk-food, another crappy idea from the USA.

Good bye, Gjøvik! You failed us for the third time. We have to leave you behind now. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry!

The only thing we can do now is to keep the vision of Christopher Alexander burning in our souls:

A New Kind of World

This is the world I want to create for my daughters, and all children on Earth.



Related reading:

How Individual Health is Connected to Community Health

By Jay Walljasper from On the Commons. Published at P2P-Foundation here.

Public health and community health linked in three projects in the Twin Cities

There is growing recognition in the medical field that maintaining good health means more than taking care of yourself and getting regular medical check ups. Healthy living conditions and strong community cohesion foster healthy neighborhoods, while inequality, discrimination, crime, pollution, traffic, isolation, and a sense of powerlessness contribute to disease. It’s difficult to improve people’s overall health without addressing the social, economic and racial issues where they live.

The image is from Sørum Økogrend, Norway

Indeed, you can think of health as a commons in which we all have a stake in maintaining.

A book by Walljasper

In many low-income communities, for instance, residents make more visits to emergency rooms and participate less in preventive health programs. There is less access to health care and wellness services. Fewer people carry health insurance that pays for doctor visits, surgery and medication. Local stores stock less wholesome food and fewer exercise facilities are available. The stress from financial pressures and holding down two or three jobs can makes people more susceptible to disease, accidents and chemical dependency. The close social connections that have been shown to strengthen health are often missing because neighbors move frequently.

“Your zip code affects your health as much as your genetic code,” notes Mary Wheeler, program officer at the Twin Cities office of the Local Initiative Support Corporation, a national organization that helps communities working collaboratively on transformative solutions to their problems.
Indeed, you can think of health as a commons in which we all have a stake in maintaining.
“The social component of health is as important as the medical component,” Wheeler adds. “When you look at how much we are spending on health care in this country you can see that investing in community health can only help us.”

Limiting Noise

Excerpt from Charles Siegel's book Unplanning, chapter 7. I strongly recommend to visit Siegel's Preservation Institute for reading free e-books and other resources.

Published at P2P-Foundation on August 31, 2014.

Noise is another telling example of the failure of growth. All through the nineteenth and twentieth century, the middle class tried to move to quieter neighborhoods by moving to lower density suburbs. Until World War I, they succeeded: from the walking city to the streetcar suburb, middle-class neighborhoods did become pleasanter and quieter. But during the twentieth century, so many new sources of noise appeared that modern suburbia is noisier than the much denser streetcar suburbs were one hundred years ago.


It should be obvious by now that the only way to reduce noise is by limiting its sources!

For example, cities and suburbs could cut their noise levels significantly by banning gasoline-powered gardening equipment. Electric edgers and electric chain saws work just as well, and there are always electrical outlets within reach on urban or suburban lots; there are also rechargeable battery-powered lawn mowers available. Some cities already have banned gasoline powered leaf blowers, because people refuse to put up with this new nuisance; the next step is to go back and get rid of the old nuisances that people accepted in the days when they thought less about the quality of life.

Some sources of noise can be banned at the municipal level, but we also need strict Federal standards to limit noise from motorcycles, garbage trucks, construction equipment, trucks with refrigeration equipment, and the like. Federal noise standards were developed in the 1970s, but they were never implemented, because the Reagan administration said they would slow economic growth: no doubt Reagan believed that people needed faster growth so they could afford to move to suburbia and get away from the city's noise.

A Norwegian suburb. A paradise of Reagan.

Likewise, if we want any quiet in our parks, we need to restrict the use of jet skis, snowmobiles, off-road vehicles and other motorized recreational equipment. Americans already spend too much time pushing buttons and getting instant gratification, and we would be better off with outdoor recreation that requires more physical effort, such as canoeing, sailing, hiking, and bicycling. Environmentalists have had some success in banning off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, and jet skis.

We would be better off with outdoor recreation that requires more physical effort, such as canoeing

Finally, if we want any quiet in either our cities or our countryside, we need quieter cars and trucks. Hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, are much quieter than ordinary cars. Likewise, hybrid turbine buses reduce the noise and pollution from diesel buses dramatically, and we need similar technologies to replace conventional diesel trucks.
Noise is the number one reason that people give for wanting to live in lower density neighborhoods.
Vehicles are the single greatest source of noise in suburbs and cities. Noise is the number one reason that people give for wanting to live in lower density neighborhoods. Noise is also responsible for some of our worst suburban design - such as subdivisions surrounded by sound walls. There will be limits to the popularity of neotraditional neighborhoods until we do something to reduce traffic noise: many people will not want to live in denser neighborhoods if they have to listen to neighbors revving up their cars and motorcycles.

Many people will not want to live in denser neighborhoods if they have to listen to neighbors revving up their cars and motorcycles. Image: Basher Eyre

Noise is a clear example of the failure of growth. Through the nineteenth century, growth and new technology such as electric streetcars allowed people to escape from the cities to lower density neighborhoods that were quieter. During the twentieth century, new technology allowed people to escape to even lower density neighborhoods, but new technology also made these neighborhoods noisier. By now, it should be clear that political control of technology is needed to give us quiet neighborhoods or even a quiet countryside.

Even on the countryside cars have taken over

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Neuroergonomics, Urban Design & Sociogenesis, by Stefano Serafini

Introduction in Norwegian:

Denne artikkelen av Stefano Serafini ble skrevet som en introduksjon til International Society of Biourbanism (ISB) sin sommerskole for 2014. Men det er en meget viktig artikkel, som også for meg inneholdt nyttige nye begrep.

I dagens arkitektur og byplanlegging blir det ikke tatt hensyn til biofilia, bevisbasert design og neuroergometri. Sosiogenesis, menneskelig interaksjon, er avhengig av myriader av velfungerende mønstre og biofile omgivelser. Gode neuroergonomiske bomiljø er en forutsetning for at mennesker skal bevare en god psykisk og fysisk helse, for slik å kunne bry seg om hverandre og naturen. Dette gjelder i forhold til alle former for støy, lys, lukt, stråling, farge, form, materialbruk etc.

Fungerer ikke de neuroergonomiske omgivelsene kan det ikke oppstå gode mellommenneskelige bånd. Modernistiske planleggingsregimer og profittbasert entreprenørvirksomhet tar ikke hensyn til neuroergonomiske tilpasninger og biofilia, noe forskningen til Christopher Alexander og Nikos A. Salingaros har vist. Mennesket har som biologisk og åndelig vesen aldri hatt det verre enn i dag!

Neuroergonomics, Urban Design & Sociogenesis, by Stefano Serafini


“What if, instead of breaking them, the design of cities could naturally feed social ties? There must be a way for urban planners to make cities more human-centred and livable, by focusing on how the built environment affects sociality.”

Stemming from evidence-based design, neuroergonomics is a discipline that merges neuroscience and ergonomics in order to match design with human biological and psycho-neuro-immunological wellness. It scientifically upholds the call for a human-centred design by overhauling the user experience design, because it measures the real psycho-physical effects regardless of fashion, ideology, culture, or current use.

Original article here.


ABSTRACT

The International Society of Biourbanism (ISB) is organizing a Summer school in neuroergonomics and sociogenesis, to be held in Artena, Italy, on July 13th-20th 2014. The program offers seven full days of lectures, practical workshops, and design studios, with international experts for exploring how to design urban environments able to revive, support, nourish, and enhance sociality and human relationships. Seven additional days will be devoted to study the ancient urban codes of two biophilic Italian towns, Artena and Segni – a research headed by the distinguished Professor Besim Hakim. The results of this study will be brought to the international Workshop on socio-spatial transformation under the state of emergency in Greece, on August 1-9.
Any full social interaction includes a fundamental part of the human person: the body. Therefore, it always occurs in a place. Space becomes place when intentionality is at stake, and landscape, nature, buildings, and forms in space have a meaningful interaction with life. An urban place – the social environment par excellence – has therefore always a biopolitical meaning. Designing the urban environment means designing the biopolitical preconditions of human life, including the chances for freedom, social interaction, political practice, health, and well-being.
Any full social interaction includes a fundamental part of the human person: the body. Therefore, it always occurs in a place. Space becomes place when intentionality is at stake, and landscape, nature, buildings, and forms in space have a meaningful interaction with life.
The placelessness of modern and contemporary cities is not an aesthetic issue – it’s social, and it severely affects citizens’ self-determination and quality of life, including the ability to connect to each other and to a nourishing environment. Thus, the ISB school aims at a needful social and cultural change of cities by design.
The placelessness of modern and contemporary cities is not an aesthetic issue – it’s social, and it severely affects citizens’ self-determination and quality of life, including the ability to connect to each other and to a nourishing environment.
Biourbanism is rethinking urban design by joining contributions from the domains of epistemology, neurophysiology, environmental psychology, economics, biopolitics, urban studies, service design, and sociology. The results outline the possibility of a paradigm shift in urban practice. This carries a peer-to-peer approach which involves designers, inhabitants, and places.

A Biopolitical Issue

The third ISB summer school will complete a cycle. Having dealt with neuroergonomics as a prerequisite to urban planning (Neuroergonomics and Urban Design, 2012), followed by its small-scale applications for propagating systemic effects over the entire urban organism through biourban acupuncture (Neuroergonomics and urban placemaking, 2013), participants in the 2014 International Summer School in Biourbanism will focus on how to design spaces that facilitate and reinforce social relations, with a special program in neuroergonomics and sociogenesis.
This issue is of paramount importance because although modern cities gather millions of people in, they tend to overlook and break down human relations, as Marx and Engels already noticed almost a century and a half ago.1 This decade, cities have become the living environment for half of the planet’s population for the first time in history, and according to urban migration and growth trends, 64% and 86% of the developing and developed world respectively will be urbanized by 2050 (67% overall, i.e. 2.7 billion more people than today),2 while urban exploitation of land will double in less than 20 years.3
This issue is of paramount importance because although modern cities gather millions of people in, they tend to overlook and break down human relations, as Marx and Engels already noticed almost a century and a half ago.
What kind of design is behind such an environmentally unsustainable, speedy, and dehumanizing urbanization phenomenon?
 Fig. 1 Three phases of urban land use in Shenzen, China: 1988, 1996, 2010 (source: Google)
Fig. 1 Three phases of urban land use in Shenzen, China: 1988, 1996, 2010 (source: Google)
If you look carefully, modern cities have been meant as machines – economic growth catalysers. Several scholars accuse Le Corbusier of being the evil genius of such an urban conception;4 yet one should date its origins back to the very dawn of the Industrial age, with roots even into the phenomenon of the first ghetto (Venice, 1516).5 In fact, modern cities are designed to functionalize the horizon of human life according to production. And that’s precisely why they break social connections. In a way, the early subsidiary and social role of cities has been morphed into the capitalistic subsumption6 device par excellence. This happened by firstly transforming the physical space of cities through ghettoization, zoning or gigantism. Design has never been innocent.7
If you look carefully, modern cities have been meant as machines – economic growth catalysers.
The industrial revolution has accelerated the transformation of streets, squares, and common environments into paths for goods, and turned dwellings into individualistic boxes, piled into suburbia. This has allowed less and less room for delightfulness and social connections, hence most of the “ugliness” of modern towns addressed by several urban critics like Tönnies, Simmel, Weber, Wirth, Marcuse, Bauman, Augé, Alexander and Salingaros.
The industrial revolution has accelerated the transformation of streets, squares, and common environments into paths for goods, and turned dwellings into individualistic boxes, piled into suburbia. This has allowed less and less room for delightfulness and social connections, hence most of the “ugliness” of modern towns.
Post-industrialism led to a leap in the quality of city morphing: as finance has long dematerialized capitalism, the postmodern city is heading towards a dematerialization of places.
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