Saturday, 13 September 2008

Imagining EveryVille

I liked this challenge, set by Aaron Betsky, director of the Venice Biennale online architecture competition:

Produce a proposal “for ‘a new exurban community’, in EveryVille; an imagined place that has emerged somewhere around the intersection of Avenue Z and X Street, just to the south-west of the intersection of Highway I and the Beltway around Megalopolis, around 20 kilometres from the city’s core.” (Architectural Review, September)

Betsky’s introduction goes like this:

EveryVille: Community beyond Place, Civic Sense beyond Architecture
Imagine every town. Remember where you grew up, a place shaped by your first walk, your first love, your first amazement at color and form and other people; your first humiliation when you couldn’t find your way or weren’t part of the group. Recall the sights, the sounds, the dirt on the street, the wind rustling through the trees, the day the garbage was picked up and the day before that, the trip downtown or to the airport, the place where what you knew slowly shaded over into an uncharted territory that itself receded the older you became.

Maybe you still live in this city, or visit it because your family is there. Maybe you never lived there but grew up in the countryside or in a high-rise. Deep in our culture, however, is the notion that a small-scale community, whether by itself or as the neighborhood in a larger city, is at the core of what connects us not just to a place, but to a sense of community.

‘Discuss’ would be my instruction to the class in the English lesson in which I introduced this extract. I would mean, as always, not just ‘Talk’ but ‘Get writing--use this as a start and think, remember, imagine and perhaps theorise on paper.

Again as always, the writing, finished at home, will then circulate if the writer’s willing, and lead to more discussion and enter the collective memory and shared culture of the class, perhaps to be referred to in passing three months later or to give rise to something in another student’s writing, along with other stuff read from the Architectural Review and relevant bits from novels and autobiographies about places.

It goes on but I find the rest less interesting.

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