It is with great pleasure (and relief) to announce I will defend my thesis entitled "Deriving a Narrative Infrastructure from Community Stories in Famagusta Walled City". Friday, January 25, 2019 at the Faculty of Architecture offices A-010 (ground floor, overlooking the garden). Read on below in the two most recent posts for background data on this study into how we can use stories to design neighborhoods.
It has been a tremendous joy to bring this study to fruition, and I am excited to share it with all of you.

TAKE ME THERE: APA Interplan, March 2018

Jason Winn is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners, and certified energy manager with the Association of Energy Engineers. He has practiced architecture and urban planning in Texas and Illinois for 14 years and is currently conducting research at the Eastern Mediterranean University.
Deriving a Narrative Infrastructure
from Community Stories in Famagusta Walled City - Cyprus
by Jason Winn, AICP, RA, CEM, LEED AP+
I had never visited Cyprus before I decided to move here from Texas. Eastern Mediterranean University offers an academic community situated in contested space on the doorstep of an abandoned modern city—unique conditions to study urban sustainability through the lens of storytelling.
My professional work over the last decade led me to ask how can planners and architects support the sense of place? I hope to add to the work in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, Planning Education and Research, the Community Development Society, Public Policy and Administration, or the Policy Studies Journal which have been publishing authors with diverse backgrounds all focused on how stories define cities for good or ill.
Famagusta/Gazimağusa, cradled in a great bay on the east coast of Cyprus, is a city fractured by conflict. After emerging from 2,600 years of colonial rule, Famagusta’s resort community Varosha briefly prospered as the most popular tourist destination on the Mediterranean. The centuries of ill-will between Greek and Turk ideologues erupted in a civil war during the 1960s that was only quelled with the intervention of the Republic of Turkey who forced a partition now overseen by the United Nations.
Yet, for all the drama, it is a laid-back Mediterranean island.
North Cyprus’s role as a meeting place of the Middle-East, Europe, and Africa is unusual. With its fleet of private universities, tens of thousands of students from Iran, Iraq, Syria, UAE, Niger, Palestine, Turkey, and many other places converge on North Cyprus striving to change the world together.
My neighbors, like many native islanders, typically spend Sunday in the company of family—barbecuing meats and sharing foods all afternoon. The ladies gather in the kitchen or around a big table to assemble the dozen side dishes (mezelar). The men of the family gather around the fire to debate the best way to cook the kebab. Later, having over-salted their own portion, they attempt to cleanse the meat with douse of lemon juice. All the while, children dash about exploring new ways to alleviate their boredom without wireless Internet.
Seeking Stories
There are subtle stories. Weekly another neighbor ventures into the ancient church-yard outside my window to fetch a bag of groceries from a tree left for her moments before by a vagabond-looking elder with a Bob Marley backpack. Over Türk kahvesi (Turkish coffee), my friend and translator Mehmet explained to me, "As long as you have a job and the latest car, no one will question what you do at home. Your home-life is entirely private and you can get away with anything."
There are the stories told about Cyprus: "a fractured land and divided people." There are the stories told by the Cypriots: "The young left for London and Frankfurt. Many elders moved out of the old neighborhoods. The immigrants moved in and we don’t know them." Then there are the secret stories they keep to themselves. All these stories inform the land use policy, they inform the sense of citizenship, and the result is a landscape of hidden histories and ruins – both ancient and modern – that is the setting of daily life.

Three years ago, the Famagusta Walled City Association (MASDER) started recording the narratives of walled city natives (in Turkish). The organizers graciously provided copies of forty-six of the taped recordings to me to raise funds to translate for research in stakeholder narrative mapping.
A typical public stakeholder-engagement process is a sharing of stories about life’s problems and joys relevant to the specific urban context (Hoch 2000, p.438). The cross-sectional nature of this process means it is limited in duration and its scope focuses only on specific issues (Sandercock 2003). Historic community narratives embody local cultural values (both civil and uncivil) and impart the meaning behind the observable urban context. These narratives provide a longitudinal means of public stakeholder-engagement with development actors (i.e. city administration, builders, and consultant designers and planners.) Reviewed and updated over time, such a method can lead to more germane outcomes. These narratives become the infrastructure that informs place identity (Valera 1998).
In a similar manner as the civil infrastructure systems underlie the city and support its function, a narrative infrastructure is the pattern of memories that underlie the outward manifestation of the city and impart "meaning" (or "relevance") to inhabitants and visitors (Arendt 1959, p.176). Civil and narrative infrastructures are both long-term investments that, when well maintained, improve stakeholders’ quality of life. Synthesis of narratives is a critical skill of urban designers (Hammer 1999). However, because narratological analysis has not been extensively employed by planners and urban designers, the synthesis of community narratives to both disciplines are not well understood.
Space and Narrative
Using the Walled City of Famagusta as a case study, my research aims to describe the spatial relationships of informal narratives at the meso (neighborhood) level. The first objective is to define and populate the components of the narrative infrastructure. The second objective is to define how the narrative infrastructure evokes the sense of place in stakeholders.
In the context of this study, domain is the approximate boundary of the teller’s range of activities. Meaning is the approximate degree of continuity of urban fabric from past to present that aids recall of spatially-addressed narratives. Identity is defined as the teller’s emotional investment in their narrative.
Using the explanatory and independent variables (teller, narrative, and urban fabric) to understand the dependent variables (domain, meaning, and identity), these are my initial research questions:
1. What is the spatial distribution of the narratives?
2. Do cohorts occupy the urban fabric in patterns defined by the narrative themes
3. Are the patterns of memory influenced by Walled City space syntax or service locations?
4. Is there a correlation between narrative characteristics and neighborhood condition, type, or age?
Using this narrative infrastructure, future research should ask:
  1. Can counter-narratives be responsibly and ethically applied through social and mass media to adjust a local narrative thus resulting in improved urban fabric?
  2. Can public policy, building codes, and urban design standards be derived from community narratives?
  3. After a narrative infrastructure is formally published, does it then influence tellers’ use of urban fabric or the narratives they express?
Planning Practice
All codes, all ordinances, all policies—from Hammurabi to Euclid—are the distilled "moral" of someone’s story shared with the polis. As a foreign planner, my biases and cultural-narratives are different from this island community.
Yet, the practice of planning is an exercise in listening to stories—from people, elected officials, the land, the specialists, and the developers. By gathering a narrative infrastructure for communities, practicing planners will have an enduring and adaptable tool derived from the stories of the local people to leverage both incremental and strategic planning processes. Without knowing whence we have come, how could we know which way is forward?
This article originally appeared in the American Planning Association, International Division periodical "INTERPLAN" in March of 2018. The author would like to thank the editor Alan Mammoser and the staff at the APA.
Arendt, H., 1959. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Hammer, D., Lileiman, J. Park, K., 1999. Between Positivism and Postmodernism: Hannah Arendt on the Formation of Policy Judgments. Review of Policy Research, 16, pp.148–182.
Hoch, C.J., Dalton, L.C. & So, F.S. eds., 2000. The Practice of Local Government Planning 3rd ed., Washington: ICMA University.
Sandercock, L., 2003. Out of the Closet: The Importance of Stories and Storytelling in Planning Practice. Planning Theory & Practice, 4(1), pp.11–28.
Grand panorama from the west wall of Famagusta’s Walled City:

Neighborhood kid turns into a City Boy--Lost in Boulder, Colorado

I grew up a neighborhood kid. If I saw different parts of Boulder it was because of the indeterminable car-rides with my parents.
When I was a boy of about 7 or 8, I got permission from my dad to ride my bike to the bookstore about 10 blocks away. I had lied--my intention was to ride out to the big bookstore at least 40 blocks away. I got lost.
About 1/3 of the way there was the old army-surplus store my dad took me to several times. I remembered that there was a map of the town on display in the store, so I went in there to get my bearings. Total failure: it was a tourist map (none of the landmarks I needed where on the map).
I kept riding, further than I'd ever ridden before. This was a scary adventure, because I had no idea how far away that bookstore was! Moreover, while I knew what it looked like and what was around it, I didn't have a map of the intervening space. Being driven by my parents, the automobile had allowed me to have two independent domains that I knew had to be linked, but I didn't know how.

That day my domain expanded dramatically by using systems. I knew my home was at the foot of the mountain (and the sun set behind that mountain), and the streets of the city were nearly all cardinally aligned. My whole sense of "city" emerged. Nodes became connected by grids. I noticed the street numbering system (east to west) and the street names (north to south). I still thought I could influence traffic lights with the powers of my mind, but I did know where I was.

Note conflict Orderly Chaos: Is there a Dharma Architecture? An invitation to senior students:

I am recruiting volunteers to help integrate the architecture and planning language developed at UC Berkeley with the teachings of the Mandala principle and Natural Hierarchy as presented by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Together our goal will be to develop insight into the needs and desires of the elder community of the sangha.

Using a virtual workshop, the volunteers will select spatial patterns and discuss their application in a retirement life-style. The volunteers will themselves be selected from the elder population of the sangha to leverage both their life-long experiences and their engagement with the Dharma.

The volunteers will have the opportunity to develop their skills laying out architecture and community spaces. To advance architecture and planning research I will document the workshop process and results. The insights garnered from the volunteers will influence the development of an intergenerational community under consideration by a sangha in North America.

For more information, or if you are interested in participating in the workshop please email me at

-Jason Winn is a registered architect with the State of Texas, certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners, and certified energy manager with the Association of Energy Engineers. He has practiced architecture and urban planning in San Antonio and Chicago for 13 years and is currently teaching design at the Eastern Mediterranean University. Read his research on storytelling and persistence in the built environment at Space Poetics

Is there a Dharma Architecture? (take two) An invitation to senior students:

Orderly Chaos: Is there a Dharma Architecture? An invitation to senior students:

I was raised in an old house in Colorado. For a home in the United States, it had two very unique spaces: a purpose-built Buddhist shrine room and a servant’s access staircase that duplicated the grand staircase. That house had been remodeled several times, but its mixture of culturally-instigated features left me a little confused about what belongs in a home. The conjunction of the patterns of space tended to be disjointed.
Traditional cultures define "spaces" in a house, or a neighborhood, or town. Anthropologist can spend a whole career understanding how a village kitchen is intertwined with matriarchy, fealty, numen, gods, and the practicalities of cooking. The modern household inherits some aspects of these ideas from ancestral patterns, but the advent of "modern" theory of architecture demanded we abandon a great deal of the wisdom and superstitions of our forbearers. The result has been a separation from our awareness of space itself.

On average, North Americans relocate every seven years, reinforcing a sense of independence from space – even a superiority to space. We treat homes and neighborhoods much like clothing: we use them until they wear-out, then we try something new. Awkwardly, our old homes and neighborhoods do not go away like our old clothes. They persist; they often fester for the lack of attention.

The irony is many of us take holidays to visit quaint old villages to enjoy their authentic qualities of space and construction. We seek out such well-maintained, long-lived-in communities that have centuries-exercised patterns in space. We take our money that could improve our own neighborhood and spend it to fund the maintenance of the historic villages’ authenticity. Then we return home to spaces we consider lacking in authenticity and would consider nigh-uninhabitable without wifi.

KTC Dallas pilgrimage group at Jokhang kora, Lhasa Tibet - a touch overwhelmed by the vividness of tradition. Photo by Jason Winn, 2016
Over the last four decades communities in North America have expressed longing for a revival of traditional living patterns, particularly the emotions they evoke. This longing has resulted in whole movements within the design community attempting to reincorporate those missing patterns in space. Examples like New Urbanism has had mixed results at best. New Urbanist villages often have a "theme park" feel: a distinct ego is omnipresent rather than the collective contributions of generations of villagers. That looming ego is particularly obvious if you have invested time working with your mind.
My exposure to Buddhist practices has presented me with a manner of working with the mind to re-engage with space. Utilizing the rugged individualism of my culture, I took it upon myself to gently reengage with space, however disjointed the patterns of my space seemed. Like with New Urbanism, the results were initially mixed. However, I also was introduced to a variety of alternative means of engaging with space: Maitri Space Awareness Practice, Mudra Space Awareness Practice, Ikebana (the art of flower arranging), Chado (art of tea), and a few other disciplines arising from traditional Japanese culture. These practices invert the approach by working with space as a way to work with mind.
  • Shotoku-an Kyoto, garden
  • From the tea room at Jack and Hiromi's - click to zoom way, way in.
Ironically, much of modern Japanese culture has fully embraced modern architecture’s disassociation from space and spatial awareness. Though the above-named contemplative arts are still widely practiced in Japan, they are now more hobbies than literal components of everyday life. Still, some attempts are underway to replicate the old-relationships to space once cultivated in Japan. One pioneering bridge-builder in Japan is Jack and Hiromi Convery, tea teachers. Their school, Shotokuk-an in Kyoto, has begun to manifest as a reverse-bridge for their Japanese students. In the grossest analysis, thier western-Dharma interpretation of Chado for their modern students is providing them a window into their own culture without the burden of Japanese cultural classicism.
Jason attempting to demonstrate Turkish Çay to Jack and Hiromi's chado class. Photo by Angela Hartsell 2016
To be sure, every centimeter of Jack and Hiromi’s school (simultaneously their home) is alive, potent with a connection to the natural world, the craftsmen who built the traditional-style house, and the traditional foods coming from the little kitchen. The ease with which sound travels around and beyond the house inspires you to speak in a lower voice and to listen. This and other sense-inspired patterns adjust the visitor’s relationship to space.

I venture to say that Jack has taken the challenge of evolving practice and living into a seamless whole. These traditional local patterns are focused on achieving a home for its teachers and a school for its students. Jack, as teacher, has a great advantage: he has leveraged a 100-year-old house that employs 400-plus years of tradition in its native context. Its timeless qualities are reinforced and actualized by the surrounding culture which venerates the art form and practice.

With an unceremonious modern culture of construction, the inhabitants of the West are unduly challenged to develop the required attention and diligence to effectively merge practice and daily living. Furthermore, due to a chronic deficiency of integrated patterns of space, there is a desire to fill space with the contents of our mind. Whether posh or kitsch or somewhere in between, the collections of our lives with which we decorate our space are reflections of our habitual patterns: our aspirations and our hang-ups. The focus of the space is not pointed at the natural world, nor is it accommodating an expansive perspective (chronologically or spiritually). Rather it serves to highlight that which distracts us from others and our experience of nature.

Another interesting attempt to "reverse engineer" a sense of architectural space was initiated in the 1970s by a group of researchers at UC Berkley. They developed a collection of spatial patterns and a theory for how places that have a sense of timelessness employ those patterns. As it was funded by the United States government, the study was culturally focused on North American and European patterns. In the simplest definition, this collection of patterns invites the user of proposed architecture to lead with an emotional desire, and then build a space that fulfills that desire. The results were interesting but challenging to apply consistently.

In my career as an architect, I have found myself fawning over a single pattern in a design for a building which had a high potential for user delight. I could lavish hours on tweaking such spatial patterns to maximize their connections to the elements, the seasons, etc. Such isolated patterns were not consistently grown from a language of patterns, and so my results in employing patterns similarly have been mixed. Even so, opportunities to delve into the design of a spatial pattern arise more often for me since a disproportionate number of my projects are sacred spaces. Such work also has led to conversations with sangha members about the design of retreat cabins, retreat centers, and, recently, retirement communities.

Elegant retreat cabin at Thule, Greenland. Photo by Jason Winn, 2010
All of these conditions and situations raised a very interesting question: is there a way to bring the sensibilities of the Dharma together with the patterns of the UC Berkley team? The Dharma does provide matrices in which to grow patterns of space that facilitate an increased sense of user delight.


There has been an expressed need within the sangha to develop a manner of living suitable for the elders of the community, a space that integrates our culture with our practice. To achieve this, I invite the elders to participate in a two-month study that integrates your understanding of the nature of mind with your innate understanding of delightful space. This invitation to Western senior Dharma students is manifold in purpose:

  1. you have the most experience with the traditional patterns of abiding
  2. your contemplative energies are likely focused on the question of how to live in a manner that fosters practice
  3. you are likely possessed of the bittersweet awareness that a home is a possession of Samsara

Trungpa Rinpoche interpreted a variety of cosmological traditions from Tibet and Buddhism and reintroduced them collectively as studies into the nature of art and psychology. Curriculums at Naropa University have been taught for four decades on these subjects, spawning books and weekend workshops and a significant body of research. (My career as an architect began at Naropa in 1996 with the class "Sacred Geometry of Architecture" under Dr. Phillip Tabb.) There is a vast ocean of Dharma cosmology we could draw upon to infuse an "Architecture of Dharma". While there may be more nuanced approaches we could use, the following teachings provide a starting point that has immediate utility, in part because they are not secret:

  1. Five Wisdom Families
  2. Natural Hierarchy

The experience of this workshop can guide us to better organize future workshops that address other cosmologies and these patterns of space examined and developed by the volunteers.

The Berkley team developed 253 spatial patterns. Organized by a loose internal logic they can only really be completed with the environmental influences of an actual construction site. Categorizing the patterns with our collective understanding of the Natural Hierarchy and the Five Wisdom Energies changes how we might use the spatial patterns and resulting space. There is the potential with these modified patterns to learn about our own states of mind (similar to Maitri Space Awareness Practice.)

For example: Is a kitchen more focused on the abundance it creates, the desire for its craft, or the industrious sous chefs? Would a kitchen be focused on the earth for which it supports or is it a place of inspiration? Does a kitchen that is focused on feeding the masses express more industriousness than a hot-plate in an efficiency apartment? When I’m feeling paranoid should I go cook a meal for a friend?


The goal of this project is not to develop a Buddhist "Xanadu". It is to develop skillful means to create delight in space. Developing these patterns as a group will leverage our collective knowledge in a way that this architect cannot alone bring into being.

This process will be documented as academic research with the Eastern Mediterranean University, Faculty of Architecture. If you would like to learn more please contact me at
Or to sign up, click on this link
Thank you!
Your author at the Court of Two Sisters, New Orleans. Photo by Angela Hartsell, 2010

Orderly Chaos - Is there a Dharma Architecture? An invitation to senior students:

I am recruiting volunteers to help integrate the architecture and planning language developed at UC Berkeley with the teachings of the Mandala principle and Natural Hierarchy as presented by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Together our goal will be to develop insight into the needs and desires of the elder community of the sangha.

Using a virtual workshop, the volunteers will select spatial patterns and discuss their application in a retirement life-style. The volunteers will themselves be selected from the elder population of the sangha to leverage both their life-long experiences and their engagement with the Dharma.

The volunteers will have the opportunity to develop their skills laying out architecture and community spaces. To advance architecture and planning research I will document the workshop process and results. The insights garnered from the volunteers will influence the development of an intergenerational community under consideration by a sangha in North America.
For more information, or if you are interested in participating in the workshop please email me at or click here to sign up.

-Jason Winn is a registered architect with the State of Texas, certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners, and certified energy manager with the Association of Energy Engineers. He has practiced architecture and urban planning in San Antonio and Chicago for 13 years and is currently teaching design at the Eastern Mediterranean University. Read his research on storytelling and persistence in the built environment at Space Poetics

What is the ideal size of town? Ideal density?

Surely there has to be an inverse ratio for an ideal city. I live in a city part-time that is 450 sqmi and 2.8k/sqmi. It is a slow-burn disaster on roids. The transportation plan shows borderline F peak LOS now, with F off-peak residential areas in 20 years. Our sewer system is broken in the middle ring of development. Bloat is the real question. Land is like cheap carbs for a city: it gets fat and dysfunctional. The more people the higher the necessary density.
What bugs me is the definition of "city". People say they live in a city because they work in the MSA, but likely live in a bedroom community. Tokyo, Shanghai, Chicago, I've found everyone identifying as residents of the greater city but can only afford to live in Yakota, Schaumburg, or Guilin. The commute times are unsustainable.
Let's invert the question: what if the whole planet were one metroplex? Now how do you define your place? What differentiates any one geographic location from another? Industrial fringe and CBD both attract daily commutes, so there isn't any real border - no inside and outside. Low density neighborhoods would be a luxury. Commuting infrastructure has an upper limit (Robert Heinlein "The Roads Must Roll" is a wonderful read on this subject). What is a city? We need a better definition than geographic or political boundaries. I know what Rykwert would say. People are being sold a false bill of goods when buying a suburban house or condo with 60 minute commutes to the employment centers.

Technology will not prolong us

I have a sincere mistrust of engineering solutions for extending carry capacity. I can't blow-up a river, but I sure could blow up a dam. Or a water tower. Or a treatment facility. Leveraging technologies is called leverage because it puts one thing on the far end of a lever to effect great action. That relationship, over the long-term, is precarious. History books are full of stories of failed cities that leveraged a critical infrastructure that failed. Cities that over-extend their population on the back of engineered solutions find themselves hostage to a "right-sized" solution suitable 30-50 years in the past.
Sand hogs in New York and the trash carrier strike are cautionary tales. 80% of Los Angeles electricity is used to move water. Use of technology without redundancy and resilience is a disaster, it just may not have happened yet.

A Persistent Architecture - building to tell stories

I believe in buildings which enrich the experience of the moment, or at least fail to detract from that experience. They are commodious, adaptable, facilitate hospitality, and easy to maintain. Each is a container that mitigates the natural elements for human activity.

Some good buildings intentionally blend the line between nature and culture. Those buildings are difficult to photograph. Most easily-photographed buildings are sculptures in space - attempting to stand forward from nature or local context, often to the point of contrasting - and tend to disappoint when experienced in person. They are akin to the fashion expert who brings no books to the book club. Like us, building design is a balance between the contemporary and the timeless. My goal for buildings is to tilt the scales towards a timeless quality.

This modest goal requires buildings express little "meaning"; unlike artistic artifacts that often rely on dualistic expression to convey "meaning" about something other than what is at hand. Modest buildings, like other artifacts of craft, express the process of their creation and persistence. While the details delight, the overall design helps the user engage with the environment and neighbors, not estrange them.

Persistence is critical because the most sustainable building is the one that is maintained. Neglected, buildings will return to the Earth. We can buffer buildings from this fate by making them important to people who have stories involving that building. Buildings are performance stages where we set the plays of our lives. Once we stop setting our stories in a building, it is truly doomed. The long-lived building is kept healthy by human hands. We adore that which helps us see beyond our day-to-day shuffle. That which orients us to an expansive view points out a way towards broader perspectives.

In addition to hosting good stories, good company, and insight a building needs to be efficient and flexible. A wasteful or constrained building is like a beautiful hat that is too small and constantly needs gold threads replaced. You will eventually discard it for a floppy sun-hat that is less attractive but more practical. In buildings, this is accomplished by designing for a "loose fit" that we can renovate later; by directing resources towards a stronger structure and greater utility-capacity rather than towards fancy finishes.

Esthetically, an abstract design built without regard to the subtle differences in land, light, breeze, and views is like an android. An android looks a lot like a human, but its designed-perfection lacks the common thread of humanity: time and our adaptations in the form of foibles, neurosis, humor, and wisdom. The building acquires character by adapting to circumstances. Nature becomes the esthetic through careful incorporation of site characteristics like views and seasonality -- these can be a part of the building’s creation. Characteristics like patina are acquired over time, and cannot be designed but they can be planned for. We can plan for the wear of use and seasons, to celebrate the wrinkles as they manifest.

Most, if not all, of us harbor a love of antiquity and respect for elders. Such antique culture is the backdrop for our own stories. Old buildings’ stories lend orientation and depth to our stories by being tangible links to our history. When people see the utility or function of a building as still valid to them in their day-to-day lives they will make the time to affect any required repairs. Veneration for the elder is normal as it reminds us that there is continuity in the human realm.

Nostalgia, on the other hand, is a desire for a simpler existence. The ironic truth is that we look favorably upon the past but with the full insight that only hindsight grants. We were all just as confused in the past as we are now, but we now understand that earlier territory and would like to go live there. Obviously, this is not possible. We each are facing new challenges as we age, our children age, and the wheel of life spins on. Nostalgia is a kind of mourning for the past, and we need each other’s help to stay focused on the opportunities before us right now. Buildings designed in a historical mode cannot deliver us from the present; rather they lead into the uncanny valley of theme-park design.

Even without a design theme, a home is highly suggestible. It is filled with our belongings. Our homes tend to become an extension of our state of mind. We decorate with reflections of our mind, creating a personal model of our neurosis and aspirations. Thus the power of geomantic arts like Feng Shui are not limited to working with Kami, Drala, and faerie folk, but an actual input channel to working with our minds. Architects can facilitate such personal work, but your inhabitation needs to be intentional. My role as architect ends when you take possession of your home, but my aspiration is your home helps you achieve your aspirations.

We use buildings both as vessels for our neuroses and containers for realization. They are an expression of our desires and aspirations. They are on display for all to see. They are artificial constructs of culture and our personal desires, aversions, and inattentions. Done well they are commodious, flexible, efficient, locally adapted, and adaptable to future generations’ needs.

Simple environmental sun room, Darchen, Tibet. 2016 Gregory "Duke" Carlson

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech is beautiful in photos, but chalky in person. 2009 Jason Winn
Civilian Conservation Corps look-out tower at Bastrop State Park, Texas. Beautifully crafted details, built to last. 2014 Angela Hartsell

Simple, functional retreat cabin, Thule, Greenland. 2010 Jason Winn

Adapted barn at the Windhorse Retreat Center, Wisconsin, 2013 Jason Winn

Timeless courtyard homes of Rhodes, Greece. 2014 Jason Winn

Horai tea room by Sen-no-Rikyu at Daitokuji, Kyoto, hospitality without pretension. 2016 Jason Winn
- Jason Winn is a registered architect with the State of Texas, certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners, and certified energy manager with the Association of Energy Engineers. He has practiced architecture and urban planning in San Antonio and Chicago for 13 years and is currently teaching design at the Eastern Mediterranean University. Read his research on storytelling and persistence in the built environment at Space Poetics

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Invisible Cities 02 Oarlock: Galleys of San Araba

Invisible Cities 02 Oarlock: Galleys of San Araba

The Game of Commuting! Win no Prizes! How do you win the commute competition? The captives, pulling oars by the thousands in galleys that stretch from suburb to city. It is not a walk to work, it IS the work. What makes you find your remote colony where you define your safety through isolation? The galley is long, but your children are safe and plumb in the good school, demanding the latest iPad so they can further overcome their geographic isolation.
It is banality in its most destructive form, so when the patched-coat man on the road-side holds up a cardboard sign that reads: "Are you winning the commute?" you pause. Are you winning? Are you losing? Is anyone living? Is the only way to avoid losing is to not play the game? Are the miles between you and work paved in coins that your Mario Cart is gobbling up, working you way up to the next iPad? Or are you dragging a muffler and your royal seat in the galley leaching away your iPad dollars? Your time to read a book? Are you missing your children even as you transport them from one extracurricular event to another in a bid to give them access to an active lifestyle that the colony does not offer.
Would you shop at a store that offered only one product every week? Would you eat out at the same restaurant every time in exclusion to all other? Or is our obsession with diversity in third places a result of the monotony at home?
DAVE COVERLY's work at; outstanding

Dutifully, you moisturize your hands, lower you shades, crank the AC and radio as you reach for your oar. Conditions have improved, but a galley slave is still a slave. We will do to ourselves what we would rise up in frothing condemnation were it done to another. We genuinely believe that such conditions are dismal, but so many of us impose it upon ourselves.
What is the option??? The jobs are in rich part of town, the housing in the cheap part of town. So, must we pour money down the tank into the depreciating assets to save money on an appreciating asset? Such math is damning at best. The odd relationship to "home" among the neo-colonialists is fleeting. With the average household relocating every seven years, there is no grass growing underfoot. When more waking hours are spent in the car than the home, which is actually home?
Wasn't there a promise of freedom? Wasn't there an open road with natural wonders over the horizon? They are wholly different seas, out beyond the loop roads, with wide open spaces and even wider highway signs, but there is relief from monotony. Sad that we must work the oar to reach the remote wonders.

These centipede lines of galley slaves have come to the fore only in the last three generations. We can't dispute the logic: we needed new housing after WWII, and we had a love affair with the freedom of the car before the war. During the Great Depression Ma and Pa would load up the family Ford till it sat on the springs, and with all the young'ns flea to California seeking Grapes of Wrath where their agriculture hands could find employment. A great reversal of the migration began when California reached the bursting point in the last decade. The moderately well-to-do began an exodus from California seeking reasonable housing prices near jobs where their computer skills could find employment. The resulting income asymmetry has caused ripples of gentrification in states like Texas. The oarsmen of California now join the Texans and our combined progress is reduced logarithmically.

With mass-housing development and mass highway building coupled, it was guaranteed today's worker would be chained to an oar. Each of us does our best to make our bench as comfortable as possible. Given the diminishing efficiency of the system, some cities reward you if you have co-oarsmen; you get a lane with HOV (high occupancy vehicle) painted on the hot asphalt. Our traffic engineers are focused on moving more cars rather than more people. Over-sized the city gasps on the fumes of inter-county oarsmen. With each stroke, the oarsmen looses more income.

Couldn't we offer prizes? Most miles driven gets you a gold star, or a free tank of gas? How about a club: Lodge of the Oarsmen. Log your GPS miles with your local Metropolitan Planning Organization and get a free pod-cast subscription to a career improvement feed of your choice. Build skills while pulling that oar!

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- Jason Winn is a registered architect with the State of Texas, certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners, and certified energy manager with the Association of Energy Engineers. He has practiced architecture and urban planning in San Antonio and Chicago for 13 years and is currently teaching design at the Eastern Mediterranean University. Read his research on storytelling and persistence in the built environment at Space Poetics

Invisible Cities 01: Streetlights of San Araba

Invisible City 01: Streetlights of San Araba
by Jason Winn, AICP, RA

As you pilot your personal carriage through the hill country you become aware of the glow on the horizon that is San Araba. Its rainbow of light-waste shimmers up into the sky like polychrome fog. Cresting the last hill you look down upon the glittering veins of the city. The street lights are all tunable LED lamps that create gremlins of orange dots (speeding cars) rushing down boulevards chased
Descending into the valley of the city you will find your own line of red and white. Your fellow drivers heading towards the glitter are blinking red tail-lights in jerky fits. Those fleeing the city are burning the back of your eyes with high-beams of all descriptions from umber of lorries through the squint-eyed blue of sports-cars' stylized lamps. Ahead, throbbing white street lights indicate an auto accident. It is lit to maxiumum to aid the distressed. Above your lanes the city's lights cascade from yellow to blue depending on the speed of traffic under them. In the distance ahead of you a wash of blue rushes towards you, rippling down the road towards you. The yellow glow around you is extinguished. Simultaneously the red tail-lights stretching away in front of you wink out. Each driver anticipates the mood.
From up in your hotel roof bar you survey the other badged convention-ers. All weary but electrified by the rainbows stretching away from the city center. Glancing across the city you note the roundabouts with wisps of yellow pinwheeling in towards the city with blue tendrils spiraling away into the suburbs. You discern the residential neighborhoods as smears of gentle blues and greens across the hills.
The jazz quarter below is a pulsing red and yellow like neon glitter pulling revelers towards the heart of the city's beat. of free-flowing traffic.
Each their own neon glittering, dancing showgirl, the towers of downtown compete for your attention. One round egg of a tower bubbles like Champagne, with a froth of small dancing spotlights effervescing from the roof bar. Business towers wear reserved tracery of neon pulling their edges into relief leaving the glass facades dark.

How is this impossible?
How is this beautiful?
How is this annoying?

Please comment below

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- Jason Winn is a registered architect with the State of Texas, certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners, and certified energy manager with the Association of Energy Engineers. He has practiced architecture and urban planning in San Antonio and Chicago for 13 years and is currently teaching design at the Eastern Mediterranean University. Read his research on storytelling and persistence in the built environment at Space Poetics

Watch "Poynton Regenerated" on YouTube


Poynton Regenerated

Published on Jan 31, 2013

A community in decline, divided by decades of anti-social traffic engineering, is reunited and revitalised by streetscape redesign

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I work for Free Wheel North, the Glasgow based special needs cycling and access charity. We work with thousands of people with additional mobility needs. Poynton village is an exemplar of how things should be, combining human access rights with a vast increase in quality of life and safety. We are advocating similar changes to the town of Kirkintilloch near Glasgow. Once people see it action they usually can see how shared space works. This is a return to public space for people, the foundation of civilisation as it evolved over thousands of years. Contemporary examples regenerate community rich in shops, cafes, post offices pubs; the fabric of village, town or city life. This was how it was before cars destroyed  all our urban spaces. We visited Poynton and sent a small boy across the main junction without hesitation. No problem. See youtube clip Poynton Village shared space Free Wheel North.
+norman armstrong Please read what I actually wrote. Whenever I have been to Poynton the majority of the cyclists have illegally been on the pavement with pedestrians. Most of the cyclists on the road were lycra-clad "dedicated" cyclists. Those on the pavement were exclusively "normal" people in everyday clothes.
+norman armstrong Your philosophical claptrap about institutionalisation (etc) is demonstrably false. (1) the more people used Ashford, the more they wanted changes. In other words, familiarity breeds fear of shared spaces. (2) desire lines were not followed; people huddled against the edges out of fear! (3) The majority of people, and 91% of women, felt anxious there. Take the trouble to read the UWE report and you will see how "unusual" your viewpoint is.
I visited Poynton in 2013 and witnessed the best example of how deregulation can build a caring, supportive and collaborative society; and it involves cars!!! Poynton is typical of small high street towns in the north of England, it was a mining town originally and eventually became part of the greater Manchester conurbation. The main high street is a major trunk road ( A road) with a steady stream of N/S traffic. Also typical of many UK high streets, the shops have struggled and many were closing down due to the GFC and general poor environment.   Low a miracle.....someone was inspired to sort it out from an urban design point of view and develop a deregulated, uncontrolled shared surface concept. The local council and the transport authorities embraced the idea and had the courage to say yes!! This as many know is not a new idea, but one that is hard to get over the line especially in Australia!!   I see this as much more than a great example of excellent urban design or even social engineering. It is a metaphor for how we should be approaching many issues in society, in health, education, housing. Let us remove the burden of control and regulation which breeds expectations that, somehow it is someone else’s responsibility to manage the individuals interaction with their environment and within their community. We have all to varying degrees abdicated responsibility for our own actions, There is clearly another way to  get us Poynton in the right direction. Australia should look and learn David Bagshaw -architect change by design
Martin, Loved the video and the concept.  Hoping cities in the US can follow this example...though it would definitely require a reversal of current trends.  My question for you is: are there any metrics taken from Poynton before and after the change (average time to navigate the intersection, average speed of moving cars, average number of pedestrians, and safety statistics)? The video alludes to all of those aspects, but didn't present any stats.
+Martin Cassini I went through Portishead and was surprised to see the pedestrian crossing is being reinstated. Right now, not planned! I then googled and found that article, so the date is irrelevant. Designed for "equality", implemented, found unsatisfactory, being removed. People don't feel equal with HGVs, busses, white vans etc. Shame that your dream of equality doesn't work in Portishead (and elsewhere).
+Martin Cassini BTW, not my negative outlook. That's the considered opinion of the people in Portishead, based on hard-won practical experience of the shared space, not some mere theoretical concept. When reality contradicts the theory, reality wins. (Unless you are a political or religious extremist, of course)
It looks brilliant! Will fast moving Bostonians buy into it?
+Lori Wadsworth Why wouldn't they?
Hopefully they will do a little research, and can see the emperor has no clothes.
It would appear that some people don't care if visually impaired citizens can't use these ill-conceived 'shared spaces' - not really sharing if part of the population can't use it.
This project is a great example for cities in America to take note of. I think it demonstrates improvement for Poynton, no doubt! However, I wish I could have seen more about the prototyping stage of development - it's true that designs aren't always "perfect" at first blush. I think some of the criticisms (hard to distinguish dark pavers at night / unfamiliarity for out-of-town drivers in the rain) could have been designed around if there had been a few rounds of iterations in order to discover and consider solutions to all those pesky unforeseen problems that always pop up. Granted, this is difficult to prototype in such a busy intersection!  Nonetheless, good work, I hope you get the chance to continue to modernize and HUMANIZE streetscapes over in your area, continuously learning new and better ways to accomplish this!
Unfortunately. And still no response from Hamilton-Baillie. Again.
Antti, I know what you mean, and you are referring to Monderman-inspired wisdom, but I see it differently. Given streets designed for equality and a social context - as distinct from streets designed for priority and a traffic engineering context - we rediscover our humanity, our empathy and our manners.
+Tom Gardner Tom, I am not in your debt. If you weren’t so snide, demanding and self-important, and if you used the word "please" and meant it, I might feel more inclined to find the time to edit my substantial correspondence with Kay into chronological order. So you can whine and whinge all you like but I will do it in my time, when I have time. 
+Martin Cassini I'll ignore your strawman points. The information Kay has published in the newsletter directly contradicts your assertions. If you make vague assertions about what other people have said, then it is your responsibility to justify your assertions. You say you will justify them, but then fail to do so - which makes you look bad. Doesn't do your arguments much good either. Over to you...
Recently I while visiting the UK I went through this "shared space" It was a mess. Terrible.
+Robert Walker Part of the point of voonerfs is UNCERTAINTY. The "green light" gives drivers no reason to think and every reason to drive fast. Yes, but you are not comparing this exact intersection to the before version, which was also a "horrible mess". This looks to be a lot better than what this town had before, especially for the pedestrians and people breathing the air. There are just too many cars. Congestion pricing of this and nearby roads for peak times would help.
+StreetsAre ForPeople I don't want to have to guess what the other guy is going to do, Using your logic we should get rid of all road signs. If someone makes a wrong guess people die.
Shared Space shows an astonishing lack of understanding and concern for those of us with disabilities. I walk on crutches and have previously fallen in a crosswalk and had trouble getting up. I wasn't hit because I had the light, the traffic was stopped, and drivers could see me. How would that have worked out in a shared space? Why are the needs of disabled people put on the bottom of the agenda for what is essentially an aesthetic ideal and not a compelling public interest on a par with my safety and the safety of other people with disabilities, the elderly, and children? I shouldn't be afraid crossing the street; I shouldn't have to ask for help; I shouldn't have to avoid shared space junctions, and I shouldn't have to risk being hit or killed thanks to the ego of a few urban designers.
+Tom Gardner You can certainly be relied upon to offer no constructive suggestions. You demand evidence from a fledgling movement that strives to transform road-user relationships, safety, efficiency and quality of space, but gets no support from the traffic control establishment which refuses the trials that could provide the evidence (it would undermine their empires). The problem the world over is that vehicles have been allowed to dominate public space. I haven’t visited India, Vietnam or Palermo, though I suspect that egalitarian road culture would bring mutual respect and authentic safety anywhere. In Poynton, cyclists use, or could use the wide strip between carriageway and pavement. The carriageway itself is single track, and cyclists don’t want to hold up motor vehicles unnecessarily. This might be my last post for a while.
+Martin Cassini Nonsense: shared space advocates make claims they can't substantiate, and that's morally reprehensible - even if it is commercially/politically acceptable. E.g: you haven't visited India/Palermo/Vietnam, but you repeatedly make emphatic false statements about them. Typical. Stop waffling and address some issues: tell us why ordinary (not lycra-clad) cyclists choose to cycle illegally amongst pedestrians in Poynton, when they choose to cycle on the road outside the shared space area. And tell us why it is acceptable and required that pedestrians are afraid in shared spaces (Ashford, Hamilton-Baillie statements referenced above).
Great piece Martin. This just shows that drivers and pedestrians can co-exist and share the same space. I hope to see more of this throughout the world.
It is a roundabout without clear lane makings! People will get killed!
+DARKOvibrations No, it isn't safe to say that. Someone being killed is a rare event, so it is unlikely to happen in any given time period. There have been several narrow escapes; remarkably one looks like it might have been caught on film, and if that's the case it suggests they are relatively common occurrences! See the background at Also see which would probably have been prevented by full-height kerbs.
+DARKOvibrations No it isn't safe to say that - KSI incidents are rare. I suggest you find out about the statistics of infrequent events. Have a look the unscripted incident in the background at 3:50 in - perhaps the elderly pedestrian felt he had nearly been knocked down? Also
Forced to drive through the "shared space" recently, witnessed one near collision when a truck was attempting to negotiate the imaginary roundabouts but I'm sure, if you want your village to look like a cheap seaside resort (without a beach) then it is fine. I think it has turned a really pretty village into an unsightly area full of brick paving and scared drivers and pedestrians, if that's the look you were going for...nailed it!
I take it by "all Users" you mean blind people too? Or are shared space people anti-blind?
Put a Fork in it the argument is done.
I would never drive through Poynton ever again, Used to love visiting but the ''improved'' roundabout scares the hell out of me. Even taxi drivers don't like driving through there. Well done Poynton, you killed your village.
I am struggling to see how Poynton has killed its village. Poynton is evidently thriving. You on the other hand could do with getting better at driving by the sounds of it. I sense a bit of village envy. One way to check if a village is dead is to check the house prices/market..... Nobody would want to pay good money to live in a dead village now. Would they?
Have a look at this video, particularly the at 3:50 in the background. Have a look at this unbiassed peer-reviewed report (i.e. not an "infomercial") into a similar scheme, which notes (among many other interesting findings) that 91% of women are anxious in the shared space, and that the more people used it the more they wanted changes.
I received an alert about a post by Tom Gardner claiming Poynton has seen a tenfold increase in accidents since the scheme opened in 2013. Jiggered if I can find the post, so I'll reply here. The following traffic incident data is from the Cheshire Constabulary Force Command. It includes all incidents with codes TA1(Fatal RTC), TA2 (Injury RTC) and TA4 (Damage only RTC) within a 200m radius of Fountain Place: 2009-10 total of 58 accidents (48 damage, 10 injury). 2011-12 roadworks. 2013-14, total of 20 accidents (13 damage, 7 injury). At least one of the injuries reported since the scheme opened was on private land. There have been no deaths or severe injuries since the scheme opened. So Tom Gardner, your credibility is shot. Please do the decent thing and find another forum for your prejudiced posts.
Try harder, and don't misquote me. Google is your friend. Pedestrian accident rate before shared space: 0.2/year in a shared space: 2/year, i.e. SHARED SPACE HAS 10* MORE PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS. (Pedestrian accidents 2005-2010: 1; 2012-2014: 4)
Another reversal in the face of reality: "A pedestrian crossing is being reintroduced in Grimsby's Bethlehem Street. The original crossing was removed as part of the multi-million pound regeneration of the town centre in 2013, when the controversial shared space was introduced at the junction of Station Approach."
+Janet Martin That's a sane sensible report without anything that could be mistaken for "religious fervour". They focus on something that is directly important to everybody (a safe space), rather than focus on some abstract philosphical principle that isn't bourne out in the real world. As an example of the latter, consider that in many parts of the world the "shared spaces" (where there are no rules and everybody is equal) turn out to be extremely rude, uncivilised and downright dangerous spaces - as witnessed by the accident statistics.
Seems like cyclists are against it too - so that's the blind, partially sighted and cyclists.
+Janet Martin Yes indeed. My daughter noted that most of the cyclists in Poynton were whizzing along the pavement narrowly missing pedestrians - and accurately pointed out that means the cyclists felt afraid to be on the shared psace with traffic. For a balanced, nuanced appraisal from a cyclist, see plus the comments and some of his other blog posts.
+Janet Martin Shared space proponents fail to acquit themselves well, and don't do The Cause any good. Sample comments: "Your message is completely incoherent." "You’re really quite, quite mad." "It is irresponsible to encourage people to break the law merely for the convenience of your agenda" "As other have already pointed out, this is a horrible mis-use of statistics." "You’ve again dodged the question." "I haven’t seen a clearer example of Orwellian NewSpeak and DoubleThink in a long time!" "Again, your position is inconsistent." "Mere repetition doesn’t make the statement valid, nor even sensible."
+Janet Martin I hadn't noticed that the article now alerts people to teh dysfunction aaspects of shared spaces. I hope that doesn't get edited out.
Martin Cassini wrote "If the Cabstand junction in Portishead is anything to go by (lights scrapped in 2009), congestion and quality of life will see permanent improvements even with an increase in traffic" They weren't: the traffic lights are being reinstated. See
+Martin Cassini Oh, the old "any problems with the shared space is because it isn't a true shared space" excuse. Also known as "no true Scotsman" fallacy . The Portishead shared space features are being rolled back because of the problems they introduced. Stop trying to deny reality. (And don't forget that pedestrian accidents have gone up ten times in Poynton since the shared space was introduced there) Derived from a Freedom of Information request described in and
+Tom Gardner Portishead isn't unique... "A pedestrian crossing is being reintroduced in Grimsby's Bethlehem Street. The original crossing was removed as part of the multi-million pound regeneration of the town centre in 2013, when the controversial shared space was introduced at the junction of Station Approach."

Loneliness in Urban Design: Causal or Symptomatic?

Nicias’s rousing words to the Athenian soldiers on the beach at Syracuse:
‘You are yourselves the town, wherever you choose to settle… it is men that make the city, not the walls and ships without them….’
"Idea of a Town" - Rykwert p. 3
Nicias tells his soldiers looking to found a colony that it is the people that define community should they enter into a covenant with the land and each other.
"Loneliness can be the result of our built environment." [Photo: courtesy Schemata Workshop]

Architect Grace Kim thinks that a solution may be differently designed housing. "Loneliness can be the result of our built environment," she told an audience at TED 2017.
Are Dorms For Adults The Solution To The Loneliness Epidemic? by Adele Peters, Fast Company, April 2017
Peter's article suggests the answer for loneliness: people... Yep, that figures, but this epidemic (I argue pandemic) isn't going to be solved by our built environment. We need a diversity of issues reinforcing interdependence to gel a colony, town, or sense of community. Co-housing is a format that fosters close interaction and encourages intern-dependence. It is not a panacea for society.
To be honest, a co-housing in South Texas is a colony in a wilderness. In contracts, co-housing in Toronto is an established development pattern and membership is fluid (people move in and out like a rental apartment). Founding a co-house is different than settling into an existing co-house.

Having worked with groups in Chicago, San Antonio and now Kerrville I've noticed that groups have more success that establish an ideology that provides the glue that holds the vision of "the commons". In central Texas the typical ideology is that of individualism, and most potential groups find that they have heard of the idea, but their definition of "town" is quite different. What they can all agree on is that the current housing model is unsatisfactory.
That agreement alone is not enough glue to gel a community. A community cannot be founded on a negative principle. Inter-reliance provides a stronger glue, and loneliness is banished in the action of giving attention to each other.
The nitty-gritty is covered in the book "Creating a life together" by Diana Leafe Christian.
Joseph Rykwert's "Idea of a Town" is the seminal text on what town founding is - as a ritual and tradition.
Volunteering Does Not Need a Greater Agenda - In a Community, EVERYONE Needs Help Sometimes
Meetup is another answer to loneliness, and this community-building platform leverages the existing built fabric of our cities. I agree that our cities are not conducive to personal engagement, but their dysfunction is not stopping you from (first) finish reading this article and picking up your phone to call a friend. If we are going to talk about the isolation of individuals, it would be better to attempt to boost volunteerism rather than try and unwind 70 years of development policy all at once.
Again, single issue community engagement is not a method to build reliance and interdependence. I know it is a convenient way to organize a volunteer-fueled non-profit and get grants from corporations, but the farming isn't accomplished by "ploughers", "seeders", "harvesters". It's accomplished by "farmers". A comprehensive approach to community cultivation - one that integrates quality of life issues - is the only way to be bounteous. There is a ethos within the non-profit corporate-culture that being "on topic", "relevant", and "focused" is the path to success as a non-profit corporation. The typical community engagement approach is to create events for people to meet (addressing loneliness) and talk about addressing a social-ill.
This last step is important to community but it is not inherently community building. The exchange is labor and/or monetary from the participant who is then achieves a sense of gratification from having contributed. This kind of exchange is philanthropy but not building community inter-reliance.
2010 M*A*S*H Pot-luck party in San Antonio - We dined, watched the episode, and talked about ways we could help Haiti and committed to relief funds [Photo: Jason Winn]
Community inter-reliance isn't just a question of "how are you helping?", but "are you asking for the help you need?" For example: If you need help getting your home clean, ask two friends if they will come help for a day. Throw a small pot-luck dinner party the next day and invite six friends over. Ask two of those people to help you wash up. Everyone is fed, your quality of life has improved, and every involved spent time and energy helping each other. This is an exchange of energy with tangible results for all involved.

This is the day-to-day experience of co-housing. The close proximity of co-housing adds a social pressure to the members to foster such informal acts of community, but that proximity isn't a prerequisite. Did our development pattern create disconnection and loneliness? No, it made it more likely. Our lack of disorder, our affluence has led to a turning away from one another. Noted author Richard Sennett addresses the use of minor crisis to help gel a community in his text The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life. The sum of the modern lifestyle allows us to avoid relating to each other - so we don't. It is inter-reliance that defines a community, not the walls.
This phenomenon is becoming a pandemic around the world, and has a clinical label in Japan: "hikikomori ". Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry apply this definition to the half million residents who haven't left thier homes for at least six months. As noted in the noted in the research by Kato etal, this is a world-wide phenomenon of profound loneliness enabled by the total of the modern lifestyle, not just the built environment.
Any good non-profit would suggest I end on a call to action. So go call a friend, particularly one that seems in the doldrums. Ask for a favor.

Takahiro A. Kato etal, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
July 2012, Volume 47, Issue 7, pp 1061–1075

- Jason Winn is a registered architect with the State of Texas, certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners, and certified energy manager with the Association of Energy Engineers. He has practiced architecture and urban planning in San Antonio and Chicago for 13 years and is currently teaching design at the Eastern Mediterranean University. Read his research on storytelling and persistence in the built environment at Space Poetics

Quantum Computer Reality, Seth Lloyd

Jason's Notes:

On a very fundamental level we have been forced to transition from hunter-gathers of information into filter-feeders of information. This may or may not be beyond our capacity, but in the most direct terms it is not what we are evolved to do. A high-level analysis of why we have computers indicates the reason we invented computers: to help us gather and filter the data that we may consume data. The limitation is the phenomenal quantity of useless or untrue information that washes up upon our Internet browser shores. Whole industries have developed to make some sense of this wake, but they themselves provide a feedback interference in trying to customize the output to the supposed desire of the user. We have become caricatures of Google's algorithm and are fed data based on statistical models informed by our demographic and past browsing history. A separate industry chops the chum of click-bait to use many of the same tools as Google to exploit our subconscious tendencies.

The capacity to fail is the enabler to exceed. (75:45) Allen Turning 1951 struggles with Godel's Incompleteness Theorem: When you have the capacity for self-reference you can no longer predict what you are going to do. Turning showed the computational program would be self-referential (an operating system is a program working on a computer that modifies itself) and the software is inherently unstable. Once an intelligence is self-aware, the computational results are indeterminate. I would suggest that this phenomenon lies at the heart of adaptability, art, the very notion of surprise. Without an interference pattern causing us to botch a recipe no new culinary delights would be invented.

Seth Lloyd is a professor of mechanical engineering and physics at MIT researching quantum information and quantum computing. He is the author of Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos.
To watch or listen to this Seminar, visit the Seth Lloyd Seminar Page. To follow the series, you can become a Long Now Member, download the Seminar app, or subscribe to our podcast. Members help to support this series and can access tickets to the talks, our live stream, and HD video of our full catalogue of Seminars.

The following is a summary of Seth Lloyd’s Seminar "Quantum Computer Reality", presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s Seminars About Long-term Thinking. These monthly talks started in 02003 to build a compelling body of ideas about long-term thinking. Links to media and more information about this series can be found at the bottom of this page.

The 15th-century Renaissance was triggered, Lloyd began, by a flood of new information which changed how people thought about everything, and the same thing is happening now. All of us have had to shift, just in the last couple decades, from hungry hunters and gatherers of information to overwhelmed information filter-feeders.

Information is physical. A bit can be represented by an electron here to signify 0, and there to signify 1. Information processing is moving electrons from here to there. But for a "qubit" in a quantum computer, an electron is both here and there at the same time, thanks to "wave-particle duality." Thus with "quantum parallelism" you can do massively more computation than in classical computers. It’s like the difference between the simple notes of plainsong and all that a symphony can do — a huge multitude of instruments interacting simultaneously, playing arrays of sharps and flats and complex chords.

Quantum computers can solve important problems like enormous equations and factoring — cracking formerly uncrackable public-key cryptography, the basis of all online commerce. With their ability to do "oodles of things at once," quantum computers can also simulate the behavior of larger quantum systems, opening new frontiers of science, as Richard Feynman pointed out in the 1980s.

Simple quantum computers have been built since 1995, by Lloyd and ever more others. Mechanisms tried so far include: electrons within electric fields; nuclear spin (clockwise and counter); atoms in ground state and excited state simultaneously; photons polarized both horizontally and vertically; and super-conducting loops going clockwise and counter-clockwise at the same time; and many more. To get the qubits to perform operations — to compute — you can use an optical lattice or atoms in whole molecules or integrated circuits, and more to come.

The more qubits, the more interesting the computation. Starting with 2 qubits back in 1996, some systems are now up to several dozen qubits. Over the next 5–10 years we should go from 50 qubits to 5,000 qubits, first in special-purpose systems but eventually in general-purpose computers. Lloyd added, "And there’s also the fascinating field of using funky quantum effects such as coherence and entanglement to make much more accurate sensors, imagers, and detectors." Like, a hundred thousand to a million times more accurate. GPS could locate things to the nearest micron instead of the nearest meter.

Even with small quantum computers we will be able to expand the capability of machine learning by sifting vast collections of data to detect patterns and move on from supervised-learning ("That squiggle is a 7") toward unsupervised-learning — systems that learn to learn.

The universe is a quantum computer, Lloyd concluded. Biological life is all about extracting meaningful information from a sea of bits. For instance, photosynthesis uses quantum mechanics in a very sophisticated way to increase its efficiency. Human life is expanding on what life has always been — an exercise in machine learning.

--Stewart Brand