The Maturation of the City


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A brief look at social and physical aspects of urban development in the context of globalization.

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The Maturation of the City

  1. 1. The Maturation of Cities2007-07-09This paper is in four parts; The first presents cities in the context of social evolution as a movement toward the formation of a world civilization, the beginning of the maturation of humanity; The second describes the supporting role of cities as nodes in a global infrastructure; The third argues our material development has, for now, outpaced our social, institutional, and moral development; and The fourth explores some possible lines of action to close this gap and foster the maturation of cities1. The Maturation of HumanityPeople cannot exist alone. Social organizations, including cities, are like bodies,every cell different but dependent upon the vitality of the whole. The relationshipbetween the individual and a social unit is a reciprocal one. "Because the members of the world of humanity are unable to exist without being banded together, cooperation and mutual helpfulness is the basis of human society. Without the realization of these two great principles no great movement is pressed forward.1 "Human society is composed not of a mass of merely differentiated cells but of associations of individuals, each one of whom is endowed with intelligence and will; nevertheless, the modes of operation that characterize mans biological nature illustrate fundamental principles of existence. Chief among these is that of unity in diversity. Paradoxically, it is precisely the wholeness and complexity of the order constituting the human body - and the perfect integration into it of the bodys cells - that permit the full realization of the distinctive capacities inherent in each of these component elements. No cell lives apart from the body, whether in contributing to its functioning or in deriving its share from the well-being of the whole.2If we see each other as cells in an organic social body, as partners in a socialcontract, and if we accept that individuals can benefit from the organization of thesocial whole; then it is logical that individual behavior that strengthens the whole willalso, indirectly, strengthen the individual.History records humanity’s climb up a ladder of social evolution from family, to tribe,to city-state, and to nation, with the size of the social body expanding in size andcomplexity. Logically, the next stage should be a global social unit. The currentglobalization and convergence signal the arrival of this world community. Just as theindividual grows from infancy to childhood, to adolescence, and adulthood; so too,has humanity. We could compare the end of the stage of nation-building and the1 Abdul-Baha, Meetings: The Nineteen Day Feast, p.21.2 Bahai International Community, Office of Public Information, The Prosperity of Humankind,p.4. 1
  2. 2. 2
  3. 3. beginning of a global society as a transition from our collective adolescence to ourcollective adulthood.The British historian Arnold J. Toynbee says civilization is an endeavor " create a state of society in which the whole of mankind will be able to live together in harmony as members of a single all-inclusive family. This is, I believe, the goal at which all civilizations so far have been aiming unconsciously, if not consciously."3Just as each evolutionary social step did not extinguish the steps it built on - forexample, cities retained families, and nations retained both the cities and the familiesin them - so too could a global culture, while emerging in its own right, retain thenations and cultural essences it encompasses and embraces. Just as each step inthe social ladder led to greater freedom and wider horizons for individuals, so too,ideally, should a larger cultural interactive space lead to an even greater field ofmovement, creation, and service. Now that the boundaries of the social contractextend to the whole planet, we are challenged to stretch, as well, the boundaries ofcooperation and mutual helpfulness. Furthermore, following the logic of integralwholes, now that we have the capacity to form a world community, the membercomponents – nations, cities, families - will not survive unless the larger body isformed.In Fig. 1, Map of Human Maturation, the various civilizations of the world appear asrivers flowing to a common sea. The many currents of civilization are now a commonheritage for all of us to share. The resources we have to build a New World Order, inaddition to the fruits of science and technology, include the wealth of experiencegained by a multitude of civilizations over countless centuries. “Much like the role played by the gene pool in the biological life of humankind and its environment, the immense wealth of cultural diversity achieved over thousands of years is vital to the social and economic development of a human race experiencing its collective coming-of-age. It represents a heritage that must be permitted to bear its fruit in a global civilization. On the one hand, cultural expressions need to be protected from suffocation by the materialistic influences currently holding sway. On the other, cultures must be enabled to interact with one another in ever-changing patterns of civilization.4 "Today, humanity has entered on its collective coming-of-age, endowed with the capacity to see the entire panorama of its development as a single process. The challenge of maturity is to accept that we are one people, to free ourselves from the limited identities and creeds of the past, and to build together the foundations of global civilization.53 Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, abridged one-volume edition, p.44.4 The Prosperity of Humankind, Bahai International Community, 1995.5 To the Peoples of the World: A Baha’i Statement on Peace, Introduction, The UniversalHouse of Justice, October 1985. 3
  4. 4. 2. Cities as Nodes in a Global Infrastructure“What hath God wrought?” was the first message sent by Samuel Morse from theSupreme Court Room in Washington to a railway depot in Baltimore on May 24,1844. From this key beginning, in an intense wave, especially in the 12 years from1877 to 1889, the main technological components for the construction of moderncities all appeared. In Fig. 1 below we can see an outburst of invention in the latterhalf of the 19th century. Through them the city could expand horizontally andvertically; its time for work, recreation, and family life could extend more easily intothe evening hours; and the speed and ease of mutual access, either within the city orfrom city to city was greatly enhanced.Fig. 2 Inventions and their Date of Creation Railway 1800 Telegraph 1844 Telephone 1877 Incandescent Lamp 1880 Skyscraper 1880 Electric Trolley Car 1885 Subway 1886 Automobile 1889 Elevator 1889 Wireless Radio 1901 Flight 1908 TV 1920 Computers 1930 Internet 1980Especially with the spread of international telecommunications, cities have a newdimension and purpose; they do not only have the capacity to express reciprocitywithin their immediate sphere of influence, or nation, but are becoming part of anetwork to perform this task on a planetary scale. They are becoming part of theinfrastructure of a global civilization. Cities are bases from which individuals haveaccess to the resources of the world and can participate in building “a single all-inclusive family”. Theoretically, the more cities function in this role; the more theircapacity will be nourished and released. 4
  5. 5. 3. Balanced Inner and Outer DevelopmentThere is, however, a great challenge. Although the scientific and technical inventionsnecessary for the creation of an interconnected planet are virtually all in place, theinstability and violence in the world around us indicate our material development has,for now, outpaced our social, institutional, and moral development. "However thrilling the prospects (for globalization) may be, present patterns of behavior do not inspire confidence in the process. It is only natural to wonder whether globalization will, in fact, unify the human race without imposing uniformity or simply propel the universalization of the culture of consumerism. Is it the bearer of prosperity for the masses or the mere expression of the economic interests of a privileged few? Will it lead to the establishment of a just order or to the consolidation of existing structures of power?6Now that relative wealth has started to come to China there is a conflicting mix ofvalues. It is acceptable for some to get rich first, but the value structure does notemphasize what to do with this wealth other than just to satisfy one’s own materialpleasure and needs. "Work without social utility is intrinsically meaningless in any larger social or moral context and necessarily produces an alienation that is only partly eased by monetary rewards. Alienation from, and lack of participation in, a larger social ecology characterized by civic friendship, results in meaningless work, restless competition, a self-centered life, a split between the ethos of family life and the brutally competitive work place, and education focused on careerism with neither personal meaning or civic virtue."7The shadows that have appeared in China’s modernization drive, such as corruptionand environmental degradation, are an inverse prescription of the inner qualities weneed, reminders that more mature standards and behavior are required. “Human happiness, security and well-being, social cohesion, and economic justice are not mere by-products of material success. Rather, they emerge from a complex and dynamic interplay between the satisfaction of material and social needs and the spiritual fulfillment of the individual. “Such qualities as trustworthiness, compassion, forbearance, fidelity, generosity, humility, courage, and willingness to sacrifice for the common good have constituted the invisible yet essential foundations of progressive community life.8Confucian and revolutionary virtues such as self-restraint, propriety, service to others,moderation, obedience, etc. easily suited a time of poverty and shortages. Povertyand a Spartan living pattern were related to the sacrifice needed fifty years ago tocreate New China. The older generation looks back with fondness to the early fiftieswhen life was more difficult but more meaningful, the cause more clear. Without aplace to serve beyond oneself, many channels for spiritual capacity are blocked,starving richer, and, finally, more productive sources of motivation.6 Dr. Farzam Arbab, The Lab, the Temple, and the Market, Edited by Sharon Harper, IDRC,Canada, 2000, pp.1-2.7 Bellah, Robert, et al, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life,New York, Perennial Library, 1985, p. 288.8 Overcoming Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in Public Institutions: A Bahá’íPerspective "Global Forum on Fighting Corruption II", May 2001, the Hague, Netherlands. 5
  6. 6. …….a paradigm of development that seeks to promote global prosperity must take into account both the spiritual and material natures of the individual and society, while responding to the increasing interdependence of the peoples and nations of the planet. … the regions of the world "unite to give each other what is lacking. This union will bring about a true civilization, where the spiritual is expressed and carried out in the material.9If the maturation process of our global world has been uneven, namely, we are moreadvanced technically and less developed socially-spiritually, then what might be donein cities to help close the gap?9 Bahai International Community, Toward a Development Paradigm for 21st Century,August, 1994. 6
  7. 7. 4. Possible Lines of ActionIn an organization as complex as a city there are many social, administrative, andphysical aspects of urban life than can be considered in light of the coming of age ofthe human race. The following are some exploratory thoughts about just a fewpossible lines of action to enhance the city’s role both as a community unto itself, andas a component of a larger global society. Promote Citizenship Education Develop Community Life Increase the Influence of Women Improve Physical Mutual Access Build Civic CentersPromote Citizenship EducationCitizenship, in a mature social contract means individuals act to satisfy,simultaneously, twin goals: to share and express our unique, individual capacitiesand talents, and to ensure the vitality of the larger society. Helping to create the latterfurthers the development of the former. “This relationship, so fundamental to the maintenance of civilized life, calls for the utmost degree of understanding and cooperation between society and the individual; and because the need to foster a climate in which the untold potentialities of the individual members of society can develop, this relationship must allow "free scope" for "individuality to assert itself" through modes of spontaneity, initiative and diversity that ensure the viability of society.While it will remain true that the individual will is subordinated to that of society, theindividual should not be lost in the mass but rather become the focus ofdevelopment. “Let him or her “find his own place in the flow of progress, and society as a whole may benefit from the accumulated talents and abilities of the individuals composing it. Such an individual finds fulfillment of his potential not merely in satisfying his own wants but in realizing his completeness in being at one with humanity and with the….purpose of creation.It is in the area of the inner development of cities that China has, potentially, a greatcontribution to make. Until recently, the West has been setting the agenda for theglobal village. In recent years, distracted by Western superiority in science andtechnology and its consumer-oriented material development paradigm Chinasspiritual, philosophical, and artistic potential and resources are underestimated, evenby China.Reciprocity is the essence of Confucian philosophy, and a consciousness of ouressential oneness has been imbedded in Chinese philosophy for centuries. Therecognition that, for true modernization to go forward, there must be a stable, yetdynamic, balance of both inner and outer development, carries on the ancientChinese awareness that "From the son of Heaven down to the mass of the people,all must consider the cultivation of their person as the root of everything besides."John Fairbank, the noted Sinologist, in the introduction to his recent book, China: ANew History, refers to China as a latecomer to modernity. He asks whether Chinahas emerged from isolation just in time to participate in the demise of the world or,with millennia of survival experience, to rescue it. 7
  8. 8. The following words of Yan Yang Chu, a pioneer in rural development in China in the1930s, give us a glimpse of why Mr. Fairbank might expect China to rescue theworld. James Yen says, ".....through the last forty centuries China must have matured her thought and learned many lessons in the art of living. Maybe China has something to contribute. Surely there must be a better way, a more humane way of settling international disputes than just by cutting each others throats. Surely, with Chinas four hundred million people (in 1930), four thousand years of culture and vast resources, she must have something to contribute to the peace and progress of mankind."10From Confucianism it has learned much regarding the application of spirituality todaily life; from Daoism, China derives capacity to merge opposites and resolveparadoxes, a capacity to see systems and “wholes” more than dichotomies; and fromBuddhism it has received high-minded spirituality and a keen sense of the coherencebetween the material and the spiritual.When we look to China we see, for example: • Love of justice expressed in the words of China’s poets and philosophers; 11 • Belief in harmony, unity of opposites, reciprocity; • Long Confucian tradition that a belief system is the foundation of social order; • Belief in "Tian Xia Yi Jia" (All under heaven is one family), • Love of perfection that generated so many centuries of civilized beauty; • Appetite for consensus-seeking, not litigation, to resolve conflicts; • Capacity for obedience; open-mindedness and lack of prejudice; • Desire to "seek truth from facts"; • Love for practical application of knowledge; the admiration for deeds not words; • Importance given to family relationships, especially respect for parents.China was not part of the colonization of the globe, but was colonized by others. It isa country where poets are greater heroes than military leaders. “The Chinese are not militaristic by nature or by tradition or by philosophy. The Chinese people never exalted brute force,………….There is no military caste in China as there is in other nations. The heroes of the Chinese people are not the warriors, but sages, philosophers and preachers of peace and righteousness.12Bertrand Russell, while serving as a teacher in Beijing in the1920s, observedChinas:10 James Yen, Intellectual Shock of China, Star of the West, 19, Mass Education Movement inChina, SW October 1925, 16:7.11 The Chinese word for city is cheng shi which literally means walled market. "The patternof shi (market) first evolved in the Metal Script arising from the character ping meaningequal or fair. Its early meaning was, of course, a place where people assemble to carry outfair barter transactions.”12 James Yen, Intellectual Shock of China, Star of the West, 19, Mass Education Movement inChina, SW October 1925, 16:7. 8
  9. 9. "production without possession, action without self-assertion, and development without domination".13The beauty of Chinas art, much of its poetry, and, in particular, its garden design,prefigure one of the essential concerns of sustainability, harmony between man andnature.The above is but a tiny glimpse into the spiritual “inner” resources of China. Herappreciation of her transcendent understandings is inhibited by the emphasis onmaterial development and further slowed by her own self-deprecating nature. "Yes,our country is backward," many Chinese people nod, reinforcing the Wests sense ofits own superiority. The more China "buys into" an exclusively material definition ofmodernization, the less stable the country will become; and the less it will recognizethe valuable contributions it can make to the establishment of inner and outerbalance.The spiritual resources of China contribute much to defining the goals and curriculumof education for citizenship, not only for the city, but for the maturation of theindividual as a citizen of the world.Develop Community LifeChina has a habit of group-consciousness called "Ji Ti" (togetherness). Although itsorigin precedes the entry of Buddhism to China, this concept was given a powerfulboost by the Mahayana emphasis on salvation of the individual through salvation ofthe group. China’s Ji Ti sense and peaceful orientation are valuable foundations forcommunity building.While a thin social network has started to spread around the world, the social grain incities remains quite coarse. There is a gap at the neighborhood-community level. The”Ji Ti” sense, the social ecology, is usually focused on family, friends, and theChinese people as a whole. The work unit used to be a kind of community, but thesocial role of this institution is disappearing. There is a hierarchy of administrativeunits in the city, district government, street committee, etc, but they are moreadministrative than social.Lin Yu Tang (1895-1976) pointed out in 1935 in his book, “My Country and MyPeople” that the Confucian teaching, the Great Learning, moves through the levels ofsocial organization and leaves out community. He says that the jump from State tofamily is indicative; it shows unity and loyalty are operative at these two levels, butthis sense is weak in between. He even says of public spirit, civic consciousness,and social service, “There are no such commodities in China”. "The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the empire, first ordered well their own States. Wishing to order well their own States, they first regulated their families. Wishing to order well their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in there thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things. Things being investigated, knowledge became complete.13 Russell, Bertrand, The Basic Writings Writings of Bertrand Russell: 1903-1959, Edited byRobert E. Egner and Lester E. Dennon, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1961. 9
  10. 10. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their States were rightly governed. Their States being rightly governed, the whole empire was made tranquil and happy."14One of the most visible characteristics of China since it opened up is the increasedcapacity of individuals both men and women. As China starts to mature beyond anauthoritarian social structure, millions of people are deciding, on their own, how tochannel their energy and talents. They are choosing their own education, careers,starting their own businesses, and traveling to other parts of the country and theworld where there are work opportunities. A professional service attitude has startedto replace paternalistic patterns. A vast pool of energy is emerging, ready to betapped.The city will be more effective and its life improved if there are social andadministrative mechanisms at the community level to channel the increased latentcapacity of individuals. A finer-grained, better managed exchange of resources andneeds, at a local level, will enhance the growth and security of neighborhoods, andthe individuals within them. The current condition of anonymity outside the circle offamily and friends, with more and more sections of the city surrounded by walls andsecurity guards, reflects a fear of strangers, and is a consequence of a lack ofcommunity.Fig. 3 Social Layers14 Excerpt from The Great Learning, part of the Confucian doctrine contained in The FourBooks, Hunan Publishing House, 1995, pp. 3-5. 10
  11. 11. There is skepticism and caution about touching this social layer. Even people of goodwill hesitate. The desire for isolation and anonymity mainly comes from the fear ofun-ending, unmanageable demand from people we don’t know; once you starthelping someone there may be no end to the demand.This fear is justified; there is no coordinating administrative layer at the neighborhoodlevel to manage such an initiative. Such an extension of community cannot arisewithout a corresponding institutional development, and maturation in social qualitiesand skills. To share information, to channel the traffic between needs and service, toexpand the boundaries of trust requires a new form of organization and leadership atthe community level.If social participation were a larger part of life, urban children, for example, couldparticipate in community service as a vital part of the school curriculum. It wouldbroaden their current activities of study-homework-computer games by exposingthem more intimately and practically with the society around them. This in turn wouldgive their studies a clearer sense of purpose. The children could more easily imaginehow they might apply what they learn to the needs of the world around them. Placingvalue and importance on this kind of social education will also ameliorate thedifficulties of the single-child family by giving children more surrogate brothers andsisters to interact with. The atmosphere of growth through service will reduce self-centeredness.Youth can make valuable contributions to community-building. Currently, in China,most of their time is spent on academic achievement with an emphasis on numericalscores. This tends to isolate them from life and limit their social growth. If youth wereinvolved in the education of the younger ones, for example, they too would have a 11
  12. 12. real service to perform and a level of responsibility that they are ready for but is neverused. Involvement in community work would also give them a chance to get to knowmembers of the opposite sex in ways other than dating. You know a person betterwhen you see how they work, how they interact with other people, how they handleresponsibility, etc. “The creation of the institutions of a global society, a web of interconnected structures that hold society together at all levels, from local to international institutions that gradually become the patrimony of all the inhabitants of the planet is for me one of the major challenges of development planning and strategy. Without it, I fear, globalization will be synonymous with the marginalisation of the masses.15Increase the Influence of WomenIf the city is half male and half female then women should be holding up half of thecity. If community building is an important aspect of city building and it is based onreciprocity and the consciousness of unity in diversity, then to whom do we turn forexperience and skill? Women have practice from family life and are psychologicallymore suited. They have a greater recognition of the essential cooperative nature ofhuman existence. One of the reason China has such a high rate of female suicide isthe underutilization of this capacity.The following brief compilation of quotes attempts to indicate the nature of thecrucial, and mostly unrecognized, contribution of women. "The world in the past has been ruled by force and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the scales are shifting, force is losing its weight, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which women is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more properly balanced.16 "Given the vital role of economic activity in the advancement of civilization, visible evidence of the pace at which development is progressing will be the extent to which women gain access to all avenues of economic endeavor. This challenge goes beyond ensuring an equitable distribution of opportunity, important as that is. It calls for a fundamental rethinking of economic issues in a manner that will invite the full participation of a range of human experience and insight hitherto largely excluded from the discourse. The classical economic models of impersonal markets in which human beings act as autonomous makers of self-regarding choices will not serve the needs of a world motivated by ideals of unity and justice. Society will find itself increasingly challenged to develop new economic models shaped by insights that arise form a sympathetic understanding of shared experience, from viewing human beings in relation to others, and from a recognition of the centrality to social well-being of the role of the family and the community. Such an intellectual breakthrough - strongly altruistic rather than self-centered in focus - must draw heavily on both the spiritual and scientific sensibilities of15 Dr. Farzam Arbab, The Lab, the Temple, and the Market, IDRC, 2001.16 Abdul-Baha, Bahaullah and the New Era, 1976 U.S. edition, p.156. 12
  13. 13. the race, and millennia of experience have prepared women to make crucial contributions to the common effort.17 “Despite the competitive aspects of any society, there must be a bedrock modicum of cooperation for society to exist at all. (I define cooperative as behavior that aids and enhances the development of other human beings while advancing ones own.) It is certainly clear we have not reached a very high level of cooperative living. To the extent that it exists, women have assumed the greater responsibility for providing it. Although they may not label it in large letters, women in families are constantly trying to work out some sort of cooperative system that attends to each persons needs. Their task is greatly impeded by the unequal premise on which our families are based, but it has been women who have practiced trying. "...serving others is a basic principle around which womens lives are organized; it is far from such for men....Obviously people have to serve each others needs, since human beings have needs. Who will serve them if not other people? “.......until recently, few opportunities for simultaneous self-development and service to others have existed; there were virtually no social forms in which this combination could be put into operation.... For men the prospect of combining self-development with service to others seems an impossibly complex proposition. For women this complexity is not so great. "Women do have a much greater and more refined ability to encompass others needs and to do this with ease. By this I mean that women are better geared than men to first recognize others needs and then to believe strongly that others needs can be served - that they can respond to others needs without feeling this is a detraction from their sense of identity.18 "Men are more burdened with the more adolescent attitudes and habits of competition and control. Maturity for a man is autonomy and separation from others, independence and individual achievement. A concern with relationships, and co-operation appear as weaknesses.19 "The assumption of superiority by man will continue to be depressing to the ambition of woman.20 "The world that is outside ones door happens to be a world that is full of hardship, cruelty and competition. In order to survive in this world, a woman needs to incorporate a large dose of roughness into her character. I happen to think that this world outside of ones home is basically dictated and molded by men. It is a problem to put women in a position where they have to adapt to this mans world.21 "The cause of universal education, which has already enlisted in its service an army of dedicated people from every faith and nation, deserves the utmost17 Cao Yun Xiang, Head of Qinghua University 1921-22, excerpt from the introduction to hisChinese translation of Bahaullah and the New Era.18 Dr. Jean Baker-Miller, Towards a New Psychology of Women, Beacon Press, Boston,Second Edition, p.62-3.19 Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice, Harvard Press, 1982.20 Abdul-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, US edition, 1982, p.76.21 Wang Anyi, interview in Newsweek Magazine, April 10, 1989. 13
  14. 14. support that the governments of the world can lend it. For ignorance is indisputably the principle reason for the decline and fall of peoples and the perpetration of prejudice. No nation can achieve success unless education is accorded all its citizens. Lack of resources limits the ability of many nations to fulfill this necessity, imposing a certain ordering of priorities. The decision- making agencies involved would do well to consider giving first priority to the education of women and girls, since it is through educated mothers that the benefits of knowledge can be most effectively and rapidly diffused through out society. In keeping with the requirements of the times, consideration should also be given to the concept of world citizenship as part of the standard education of every child.22 “…strive to show in the human world that women are most capable and efficient, that their hearts are more tender and susceptible than the hearts of men, that they are more philanthropic and responsive toward the needy and suffering, that they are inflexibly opposed to war and are lovers of peace. Strive that the ideal of international peace may become realized through the efforts of womankind, for man is more inclined to war than woman, and a real evidence of woman’s superiority will be her service and efficiency in the establishment of universal peace.2322 Message from the Universal House of Justice, October, 1985.23 Abdul-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 283, 1912. 14
  15. 15. Optimize Mutual Physical AccessIf we need social structures and institutions scaled to the individual and community,do we not also need physical spaces scaled the same way? If mutual service andreciprocity could be enhanced by optimum physical access to each other, then whatspatial arrangements and conditions might be helpful? The vast increase in mutualaccess due to the proliferation of technologies such as mobile phones, the internetand jet travel augment the oldest form of mutual access, namely, face-to-facecommunication and walking.The new communication technology has no scale; time and distance are compressedto zero. The scale of personal communication is measurable. At one meter we canread the smile in someone’s eyes; after 25 meters we cannot read the expression onsomeone’s face. Transportation now allows any two people on earth to meet almostwithin hours. Pedestrians take 10 to 15 minutes to walk a kilometer.It is probably more valuable to have a multiplicity of forms of access and movementrather than thinking the older ones are obsolete.We could start by looking at conditions that reduce mutual access. Some examplesinclude: Excessive separation of work and home reduces our access to each other. Excessive separation according to income reduces access between social strata. Walled residential compounds, islands of fear, separate group from group; Over-crowding is too much access. Diffusion and too-low density is not enough access. Overly-large city-block size reduces flow through its territory. Over-reliance on cars, and extra-wide roads for car traffic, reduces access between people and between blocks.What adjustments can be made? What are the optimums? The following is a brieflook at some parameters to work with. These include: the street, the city block, unitsof growth, and density.The StreetThroughout history, a space common to every city has been the street. The streetoffers a series of doors to private spaces accessible from a flowing public space. Inthe city, streets and plazas are the primary containers and conduits for reciprocity. Ifat street widths under 25 meters, we can take the pulse, and know the condition ofour neighbor, then this is an important unit of urban scale. The ideal maximum cross-section width of a street in “ReciproCity” is 25 meters. The most beautiful condition,in the summer, for seeing each other in the street, is under a canopy of trees. If therows of trees on either side of a street are 15 meters apart, or less, there is a shadyroof canopy. When the distance between the rows exceeds 15 meters the hot sungets in.” We can further define this ideal cross section as 5 meters of sidewalk, 15meters of road, and another 5 meters of sidewalk.Block SizeBefore the explosion of technology, when they were more pedestrian-oriented, citieshad small city blocks, from 0.5 to 1.5 hectares in size. If we looked from the air wewould see a finely-grained urban pattern. The parts of cites around the world thatpeople like to visit are these very fine-grained older urban districts. A little larger is thetypical Manhattan city-block at about 80 x 270 m, just over two hectares. The blocksin old Beijing are defined by east-west hutongs spaced about 75 meters apart. Evena long block length, say 450 meters, still only created a block size of less than 4.0 15
  16. 16. hectares. On these relatively small city blocks, there are several owners andresidents, and often several builder/developers. The density of diversity is high.In most cities, as we scan their newer parts, the grain gets coarser and coarser. Asthe block gets bigger, the area within has a lower and lower amount of contact withits perimeter. For example, a one hectare, square block has a 400 meter perimeter,and a four hectare block has 800 meters of perimeter. The ratio of the former is 400meters of street perimeter to one hectare of land, or 400:1. The ratio of the latter is800 meters to four hectares or 200:1. The small block’s relation to the street is twicethat of the larger. If mutual access enhances opportunities for mutual support, thereshould be an optimum relationship.Fig. 4 City Form and Access24Recently, for security reasons and to obtain more protected green space forresidents, there are many new residential developments in Chinese cities that areten-hectares and up in size. They tend to be "gated communities" with no publicthrough-streets.These “super blocks” are bound by six-lane roads with fences down the middle torestrict the movement of pedestrians.Some developments reduce reciprocal access even more by constructing wallsaround their perimeter and setting up guarded gates. In some cases this can be verybeautiful, such as the shadows of long rows of trees swaying and dancing on thewalls of the Forbidden City. But, a whole city built this way implies an inner life of fearwith a response of defense and control. The walls provide security, but inhibitreciprocity. Walls that keep people out also keep people in. The more you fear theoutside the more you live in a prison. Pedestrians have to walk long distances to getaround these walled compounds. Perhaps Zhu Ge Liang25 had a useful strategy; justleave the door open and conquer the enemy with confidence.There are very few secondary roads, so traffic is concentrated on the perimeter of theblocks, further isolating them from each other. Moving around requires traveling by24 Martin Pearce, University Builders, Wiley-Academy, 2001, p. 6025 Zhu Ge Liang was a famous general who once, vastly outnumbered, discouraged anenemy army from attacking his city by leaving the gates wide open and, in full view of hisadversaries, drank tea while sitting on top of the city wall. 16
  17. 17. taxi from one large project to another. In suburban gated-communities the occupiedland can be as large as 50 and even 100 hectares in size. These relatively large cityblocks may have one owner, are developed by one company and designed by onearchitect. The density of diversity is low.Cliff Moughtin, Emeritus Professor of Planning at the University of Nottingham,believes too large a block destroys city life. "The larger and more homogenous the street block the greater will be its power to destroy the social, economic, and physical networks of the city. The large-scale single-use, single-ownership street block is the instrument most influential in the decline of the city: its effect, together with that of its partner the motorcar, are among the real causes of the death of the great city."26Units of GrowthChristopher Alexander, a renowned American researcher into urban form, sayshealthy, organic growth should be piecemeal, in sizes small, medium, and large inequal numbers, with an upper limit of about 10,000 m2 per piece. In urban China, aten-hectare site, with a Plot Ratio of 2.0 has 200,000 m2 of buildings, twenty timesAlexander’s upper limit, and is not considered a very large-scale development. Thereis a variety in the scale of developments in China but they are all above 10,000m2.What is optimum in the China context?DensityThere are two important measures; one is the number of people per unit of land; andthe other is the amount of indoor living-space per person. If we take the cities ofOttawa and Montreal, Canada, as examples of typical North American cities, we findan average of 40 people/hectare based on the gross built-up area of the city, andabout 30m2 of living space per person. In a typical Chinese city we find an averageof 100 people/hectare and about 20m of living space per person. If all are to beserved with water, sewers, electricity, and transportation, then the more compact cityis more economical, more energy-saving, and more sustainable. “The team found research on energy consumption in cities around the world, plotted on a curve according to population density. Up to about 120 residents per hectare, roughly equivalent to Stockholm or Copenhagen, per capita energy use falls fast. People walk and bike more, public transit makes economic sense, and there are ways to make heating and cooling more efficient. But then the curve flattens out. Pack in 300 people per hectare, like Singapore, or 750 people, like Hong Kong, and the energy savings are negligible. Dongtan, the team decided, should try to hit that sweet spot around Stockholm.”27The current Chinese urban density levels may be nearer to optimum.26 Cliff Moughtin, Urban Design: Green Dimensions, 1996, Architectural Press, P.13827 Douglas McGray, Pop-Up Cities: China Builds a Bright Green Metropolis, 04.24.07 | 2:00AM 17
  18. 18. Fig. 5 Urban Density 18
  19. 19. Build Civic Centers "When words and action are not directed by a moral force, scientific knowledge and technical know-how conduce as readily to misery as they do to prosperity and happiness."28 "...the insights and skills that represent (material) scientific accomplishment must look to the force of spiritual commitment and moral principle to ensure their appropriate application. 29 “The empowerment of humankind through a vast increase in access to science and technology requires a strategy for development which is centered around an ongoing and intensifying dialogue between scientific and spiritual knowledge.30 “Wo bu pa ben, wo pa hui” (I don’t fear stupidity, I fear bad behaviour.)31Although a dialogue between scientific and spiritual knowledge can occur anywhereand anytime, its importance in the functioning of any human settlement requires amore visible presence.In older, western cities the most obvious expression of the spiritual center is thechurch; and the scientific center is the school or university. Pictures of urbandevelopment around the1880s in North America, for example, often show the churchspire as the dominant feature of the city skyline. Another center is “City Hall”.Government administration buildings represent civic authority, often located atprominent public squares. The dialogue between these various centers was notexpressed in a conscious way.Fig. 6 Zhou Dynasty Ideal City Plan (Zhou Li: Kao Gong Ji)28 Position Statement on Education, prepared by Baha’i International Task Force onEducation, 1989.29 Bahai International Community, Office of Public Information, The Prosperity of Humankind,Part 4, 1995.30 Bahai International Community, Office of Public Information, The Prosperity of Humankind,Part 4, 1995.31 My son’s Grade 4 teacher at Hei Zhi Ma Hu Tong School near the Drum Tower in old Beijingincluded these words in a brief speech at a parent-teacher meeting, 2000. 19
  20. 20. The Forbidden City in Beijing combined both spiritual and government centers. TheEmperor was the representative, the Son of Heaven responsible for administration onearth. Beijing is like a big temple surrounded by altars where the emperor prayed forgood harvests. In Changan, the capital of the Tang Dynasty, or in old Beijing, manylocal Buddhist temples were found in every neighborhood functioning asguesthouses, hospitals and orphanages for travelers and refugees.”32 The Chineseexamples of centers were more integrated. They never went through the rigorousseparation of “Church” and State”, of science and religion. These cleavages,however justifiable in Western history, at the time they occurred, leave vastdisconnects between action and purpose.If humanity’s maturity requires a more intense dialogue between our inner and outerlives, then we could consider the creation of a place where the spiritual, scientific andadministrative knowledge all meet, a new form of Civic Center. In contrast to theCBD, a place for commercial exchange, the Civic Center is a place for knowledgeexchange, meditation, and decision-making through consultation.The Civic Center would combine government offices, social, educational, and culturalinstitutions (schools, hospitals, theaters, conference centers, etc.) arranged in a circlearound a park-like open space. The center of the space is a Place of Stillness, aPlace of Beauty, a quiet place for inspiration, contemplation, meditation, and abstractthought. A structure at the center of this space could be round, open on all sides,receiving and giving in all directions. Here gather the citizens, the learned, and theleaders surrounded by institutions of social benefit to engage in the conscious designof the future based on the widest possible breadth of insights. Individuals andinstitutions all have easy access to each other, access to knowledge and decision-making; a decentralized system starting at the grassroots but with links to the wholeglobe.There could be one large central Civic Center for the whole city and other scaled forcity districts and neighborhoods. The creation of Civic Centers can accumulate overtime as part of an existing city design, or be built in its entirety in a new town.The center would strengthen community development. Currently, most citiesseparate spiritual, educational, administrative, and social activity. We go to thechurch, temple or mosque for spiritual activity; schools for education, governmentbuildings for administrative activities; and to each others homes, or parks, clubs,restaurants and theaters for social-recreational activity. These could be augmentedby a regular integrated activity at the Civic Center. One part of the event would bespiritual to awaken and stimulate our inner being. This could be followed by a part fordiscussion of local affairs with government representatives present. Finally, the eventcloses with a socializing-networking activity so we can enjoy old friends, make newones, and have a finer-grained knowledge of the needs and resources in thecommunity around us. This would help:  Develop the institutional framework for community development.  Give a venue to exercise the principles of consultation, participation, and the equality of men and women  Provide a way to appreciate more deeply the cultural diversity within the community.  Illustrate the importance to social well-being of the community and the family.  Increase awareness of opportunities for service.32 China, Lonely Planet, Sixth edition, July 1998, p.73. 20
  21. 21.  Provide a forum and an institutional framework to achieve the transition to sustainability. * * * 21