Thesis – Chapter 2 Planning Today: 2.5 Physical Design and Behavior
Good design may not generate good behavior, but bad design can encourage bad behavior. Viable albeit poor neighborhoods were demolished and their inhabitants conscripted into these experiments (Pruitt Igoe & Cabrini Green), which went bad almost immediately. Any number of additional factors can also be held responsible for the crime and violence of these projects—including concentrated poverty, poor administration, and inadequate policing—and it is not clear that these places, if traditionally designed, would have been successful. But few people now doubt that design played a significant role in their demise (Duany, Plater-Zyberk, Speck, 2002).
Design does affect behavior. This is as obvious as asking whether locking a door keeps someone out of a room, or whether creating an environment in which nothing is nearby causes people to drive. One does not have to believe that front porches encourage sociability to accept that unwalkable streets discourage it (Duany, Plater-Zyberk, Speck, 2002).
“Americans wonder why their houses lack charm; that which makes our physical surroundings worth caring about. We are presently suffering on a massive scale the social consequences of living in places that are not worth caring about. Charm is dependent on connectedness, on continuities, on the relation of one thing to another, often expressed as tension, like the tension between private space and public space, or the sacred and the workaday, or the interplay of a space that is easily comprehensible, such a street, with the mystery of openings that beckon, such as a doorway deeply set in a building. Of course, if the public space is degraded by cars and their special needs—as it always is in America—the equation is spoiled. If nothing is sacred, then everything is profane” (Kuntsler, 1993, p. 168).