Saturday, March 19, 2011

flash urbanism

Yes, Miami suffers from a lack of urbanism. We drive a lot. We get into our cars in our private driveways and garages, and we don't get out until we reach the parking lots and garages where we work and shop. We never walk, and we never congregate in the streets. We utterly lack a sense of urbanism, and thus, any sense of community.

Or do we? South Florida has a variety of walkable communities that create pockets of urbanism in the vast motopolis. One reason we chose to live in South Miami is its walkable downtown, just over a half mile from our house (we're within walking distance of four grocery stores, for example). In each of these pedestrian areas, you're likely to find whole communities of people drawn by the sense of community that comes with regular interaction with neighbors and strangers in public space.

Miami craves more urbanism. The proof is in the moments of flash urbanism that have emerged recently. One example is the food truck phenomenon. Our local food trucks post their itinerant schedule on Twitter and Facebook, and when they congregate they transform empty lots into thriving piazzas.

The other recent development that gives up hope for a more urban future in South Florida is the park in front of the New World Symphony. Their new building (by Frank Gehry) and new park (by West 8) form an outdoor projection theater that brings indoor performances into a fantastic public space in Miami Beach. These performances - called Wallcasts - attract large crowds. And it's not just the free events and great sound system that draws people there. It's the sense of community engendered by events that create public space, especially in places that were once empty lots.

Every building and landscape is an opportunity to foster community. We're not planning on hosting concerts at our house, but many key gestures are calibrated toward creating a sense of community. Every porch is a manifesto.

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