Last Wednesday Leslie was part of a panel at the Glasshouse debate. It was a really interesting evening.
You can see their write up of the evening here
Leslie’s speech is below. You don;t have to read it!
The beginning paragraph is the Introductory paragraph for the evening.
Do we accept the status quo in place?
‘How have you let this happen?’ we heard from a young placemaker at our debate in Liverpool two years ago, as he reflected on the effects of poor placemaking. How has our culture determined how we make places? Have we demanded enough of ourselves? Our London debate will seek to consider the cultural norms that influence the status quo of placemaking. We’ll ask whether we truly have ambition when it comes to our places and will consider the role of risk and risk-taking in shaping those norms and ambitions.
Start of what Leslie said:
I want to start by looking at the introductory paragraph. It provided me with great food for thought!
From the question ‘How have you let this happen?’ I would ask Has anyone ‘let this happen?’ and if so who?
The idea that place is private underlies much of our decisions about place. There is an acceptance that everyone must have a private place of their own and over which that person is powerful – has ownership
The ‘more civilized cultures’ are entitled to capture counties and cultures if they do not live like this, to colonise them, with our culture norms. This is described as as progress, modernity and development all part of being ‘civilized’. The story goes that we are liberating those places through enforcing our better/higher values on them.
These ideas are said to be ‘rational’ that is intelligent, evidence-based, well thought out and the only possible conclusion. We are right to accumulate individual wealth including places, each person needs their own place. It is part of the identity, grown up, adult. If poeple don’t there is something wrong. (exemplified by the children who are vilified and ridicules in the media when they do not moved not by the time they are about 25)
Is there a ‘you’ that let this happen? Yes I would say the ‘you’ does refer to a small group of people who do get asked for their thoughts and feel entitled to say what they think and create places. Most people are not included in this ‘you’ . Those who are included are mostly establishment figures, well educated into the values of private property. All the entitled people have a stake in continuing this culture, these values and promoting these through their work.
The anger behind the question ‘how have you let this happen’ reflects my own frustration at the seeming impenetrable wall of the self perpetuating system, a status quo that seems impossible to change. The question ‘how have you let this happen?’ is answered that has happened because it serves a small but powerful section of society.
The introductory paragraph asks ‘Have we demanded enough of ourselves?’. This is the wrong question. It doesn;t matter how much we demand if we are demanding the wrong things.
Mostly, those in power haven’t looked at the way things are designed with a critical eye as it is they who benefit from the status quo. There is no need for the entitled to question their placemaking.
The introductory paragraph asks about the role of risk and risk-taking .There is risk in every position. The idea that there can be a world were humans can control everything (that is a world without risk) is part of the ‘rational’ ideology that we have to acknowledge as part of a damaging status quo. We have to move beyond this vision. If we do not recognise the historical apex we are in, climate change and a debt economy we are taking a much larger risk. If we do not change the status quo many say we are literally risking the end of human kind.
Back to the introductory paragraph -Are we being ambitious enough?
Have to be careful of the word ‘ambitious’ as it is so tied to the dominant linear progress model that has failed most of us so badly. But if we want to reclaim the word, if we use ‘ambition’ to mean using our positions of varying amounts of power to help the not powerful to where they want to go. I would say we are not ambitious enough
So what does supporting the not powerful mean?
To get over an imbalance of power
It has to be openly acknowledged that the power imbalances is there, who has what and who doesn’t have any and for what reason
Secondly, Be transparent about the values that underpin any actions.
3. Our values need to change.
-We need to move away from the domination of private and ownership to the notion of communal and commons.
-To ensure the equity of action and opportunities we need to work through inclusive participatory approaches, direct action, leadership by community rather than individuals. In this way power is encouraged to be dispersed and diffuse in community rather than centralised and concentrated in a small proportion of hands.
This encourages different ways of imaging, planning and building our places.
-Need to encourage creativity and self determinating projects which are small scale and personal,
-We need to reject dichotomies of competition and tackle the growing divide , individual vs community, public vs private, leisure vs work, workplace vs home, city vs country ,animal vs human,
Instead see urban landscape a profusion of sprouting, growing and living reconnecting with nature, full of respected creatures
Along with this come a changed view of success
looking at the economy of natural resources and the production of social financial and ecological sustainability
London Community Neighbourhood Co-operative, LCNC, the project I am involved with, is working in this way, works with these values , acknowledging its privilege, working in flat structures, with a changed view of success.
1.See those you work with not as someone who has a few skills and knowledge but as someone who has all the ideas. Work in community, build relationships and lead with the community
2.LCNC plans a Community led Self build, an activity that decentralises and demystifies knowledge. It means people are not passive consumers of housing but are self skilling and skill sharing, thereby engaging with their housing on an intimate practical level helping people be and feel part of something, in control of their own environment.
3.LCNC uses co-operative organizational structures that include all those involved encouraging flat decision making processes.
Local food production, local and multi use work space, community owned financial instruments, education of each other throughout our lives, water and energy production on site, sewage and waste dealt with on site community owned resources such as tools, and spaces for parties or guests all part of the LCNC vision.
LCNC’s hope is that we modeling for others another way of relating to our built and social environment. This model is not a blueprint but a conscious vision with transparent underlying values for a society different from today’s status quo.
One that emphazises –
Decentralised control over spaces
Residential spaces integrated with food production, work and leisure
Production of the built environment organized to meet local needs all
controlled, planned and built by those who live there.