#CNU17 What I Learned at the Meta-Physical Planning Meeting

Architecture is not psychotherapy! That was one of the first points made during the CNU17 session on "Meta-Physical Planning: the World We Want." But the people who took part quickly got into issues of intimacy and spirituality, of masculinity and femininity.

But then the conversation moved to the question of what needs to go at "the center" of a great place. Many participants supported the idea that "the center" needs to be something spiritual, even though today it's likely to be something commercial. "Our lives are centered on retail."

An English village was traditionally built around a church. How can that model be adapted to today's more secular society? What can take the place of a house of worship at the center? Civic architecture, perhaps. American urbanism has some great historical models of placemaking civic centers and state capitols.

Another thought: "Leave the space open until you can figure out what the center should be. It's OK to do that."

Other scribbles from the notebook:

Has femininity been "leached out" of modernist architecture? Are curves really an expression of femininity – or just the female body? Why did you women architects allow this? Why did you men architects allow this? Didn't Michelangelo put curves into his buildings?

What is the role of ornament – of beauty that is "great because it is useless"?

Contrast the assertive expression that some architectural objects represent vs. the deeper usefulness of placemaking architecture in public life.

"You can call it 'feminine' if you want. But what is it that connects us to one another, and what isolates us and traps up in our own words and ideas?"

In 1750 it was possible to know 30,000 people by name in Philadelphia.

Christopher Alexander considers one's "experience" of a place to be one of its functions. If it's not a happy experience to be there, it's not fulfilling its function.

"Design a city for children and for relationships so people don’t have to go on Facebook."


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