Have you heard about longnow.org? I hadn’t until today but was excited to learn they encourage societies to think long-term. I attended, at Cornerstone Architecture, a lunchtime showing of the Longnow seminar by Jonathon Rose, author of The Well-Tempered City. Rose’s systematic approach to explaining the evolution of cities and his belief in the needed future direction was inspiring. He sees a needed marriage between an eastern hemisphere, more collective approach to community balanced with the individual, atomized approach more often promoted in the western hemisphere. Over 80% of the world’s population is living in cities and we have to get this right. Humanity is also at a crossroad for many older cities where the core has been decimated through suburbanization and communities are deciding how to rebuild and reinvent.
Rose shared his thoughts on the necessary critical elements to consider for cities of the future to thrive. Despite being a third generation developer, his first element is subsidized housing. In NY for years they have had an 80/20 requirement for the building of new rental properties. 80% market value, 20% subsidized. He sees this as necessary along with the needed ongoing maintenance of these projects. It makes economic sense and human sense and is fundamental to addressing homelessness and poverty. The next two are healthcare and education. These pillars of a community have to be high quality and created with an eye to the future, not just today.
Education specifically has to nurture young people to see the systematic elements of everything including the evolution of our cities. It needs to assists with the understanding of connectedness, to create solutions with compassion and to communicate effectively to others. Healthy communities will emerge if strong schools are present. There are many examples of communities emerging from poverty to become gentrified because of strong schools and accessible healthcare.
I applaud Rose for his emphasis on education in “well-tempered” cities but hope the realization is not simply to have strong inner city schools. These schools need to change the trajectory of students and the future for the better and not single-mindedly improve test scores and access to college. Education needs to support respect, compassion and engagement to change the future of our cities.
Photos from City Garden Montessori, St. Louis, MO
intrigued and have plans to learn more about their seminars,