This was started in another thread, but I'll continue it here:
I first asked: How would you go about designing an ideal city? What would be considered and how?
Which resulted in the subsequent discussion:
Oh gosh. Good question. So many things to consider. I'm giving you the very "quick" version. If it were reality, I'd take years to map it out and consider/analyze everything.
For me, I actually like when something is "presented to me" and then I can react according to what has been handed to me. So, if someone said, you have to build a city in northeast Arkansas. Then, I can go and research the topography, the weather, the wind, is it tornado country, earthquake country (how strong do we have to build the structures), what is everything we need to take into consideration, airports, location relative to other major transportation hubs, etc.
But, since I don't have a "real" location to think about here - I guess I'm just going to consider...well, everything. I'm analyzing from all angles. Should we build "up" (highly concentrated with high-rise apartment buildings), or should we build "out" (sprawling suburbs, etc.) Do we even have a choice based on the location? I'm probably starting (at least on paper) with the essentials that every city needs - and that's where my sketch would begin. In the heart of the city, when pencil first hits paper, I'm putting a police station, a fire department, a hospital, a government building (courthouse, etc.), a library, etc. I'm going to have a "downtown" commercial area - where shops and businesses can move in and where people can walk and talk. I'm putting in benches, nice looking landscape, etc. My residential streets will shoot off from this downtown area and they will be a system that "makes sense". I live in a city now where there is, for example, 8th Street and 8th Avenue. So, you can be on the corner of 8th and 8th, or 6th and 6th. That's stupid and I'd like to talk to whoever thought of that. Streets should be very easy to navigate and understand for newcomers, visitors, and tourists. Like, I think in San Diego, the downtown area has lettered streets running one way (A, B, C, D Streets) and numbers running the other way. Simple, basic, and maybe uncreative, but it works. It's very easy to understand.
I'm putting an airport on the outskirts of the city. I'm putting a K-12 school somewhere - I'd have to research why it's better to put it on one edge of the city (keep traffic out of the center of the city?), or if it's better to put it downtown, etc. I'm putting a nice park here and there. I want it to look nice and pleasant. But, more than that, I want it to work well for the people that go there. I want it to function properly. I don't want even one single thing where people can go, "What in the world were they thinking when they constructed this city?" Nothing will be thrown in at the last minute, or done haphazardly. It will all be well thought-out on paper first, consulting with experts in various fields and in city planning to make sure that everything has either (a) worked well in another city in the past, or (b) will work well this time, in this city.
And I want something about the city to stand out. There has to be at least one thing that is unique or different about this city. Maybe a really good zoo in a small city (which is rare) - which would cause incoming traffic, but would also spur tourism and growth. A great water park/amusement park. A world renown rehabilitation center for women recovering from too many corns on their feet, or - something like that. Something that establishes the city as "the very best" in this particular area.
There's so many other things to consider too: location will largely dictate industry and types of jobs, etc, etc, etc. It goes on and on and on. A Ti dream, really. So much to analyze and map out. It has to come together spacially as well, on paper.
1. Function (easy to get around, things "make sense" to the newcomer and to the residents, people have everything they need, including peace, stability, safety, infrastructure, etc.)
2. Aesthetics (looks fresh and appealing - a place you'd want to come back to or even stay)
3. Everything else will fall into place once those things are establishedWell, sure, the people should definitely be considered as a foundational piece of the puzzle. That's why I mentioned that I want it to work and function for the people. That proper function will vary depending on who those people are. If you're saying it might be a city for "only old people" - well, I don't know many cities like that. I suppose I assumed a population that was reflective of the overall population. And, I don't make any assumptions that cities here in the U.S. are "better" or "worse" than other parts of the world. That's not for me to decide or to pass judgment on. I can have an opinion on things like that, but that doesn't mean my opinion is correct. I guess that's why I said I like something to be "presented to me" (an actual location and the specifics involved - who will live there, what is the weather like, etc, etc, etc.). Once those parameters and variables are "given", only then can I begin to speculate on what would be best for that specific city, in that specific location, with that specific population. If I'm given all that information up front, then absolutely, I'm going to design the city with all of those things in mind.
But, if those variables are not given and I'm only asked "how would you design an ideal city", then that's very broad, and I have to then begin with very basic things - every city needs a, b, c, etc. If you have something specific in mind (e.g., an Eastern city with a population of 8 million in a relatively small area, large elderly population, etc), then I can begin working off of that information.My point was that a city is not merely a series of structures and services in a particular geographic region (with its associated climate).
How to put this another way... How malleable should an ideal city be to the lifestyles of its citizens? The fact is that there is feedback between the structure of a city and the lifestyle of its citizens. But the structure is still somewhat inelastic, so you also have selection effects where people who like or dislike a city will move. But this is still limited to the range of choices available (subject to citizenship, employment, family etc). What system would be used to shape the city over time based on the preferences of the citizens? (answers to this question would need to be more specific than say, constitutional democracy)
But there are other questions too: Would an ideal city have citizens with radically different lifestyles to known modern or primitive models?Now the point is that this is a broad question - while discussion of structure is certainly relevant, it must be relevant to those who will actually live there. A city is not merely a location, it is a superorganism.I see. Your question is a little more clear now. And it's a much more complex question (or set of questions) than I originally thought. At first, I was just "toying around" with some very basic ideas of how a city might be physically constructed from scratch. But, your questions are much deeper than that.
It's likely that you've given this more thought than I have. I will say that I believe a city should be "created" by the people who live in it. I was talking to a Polish man today and he said that America is one of the most rule-based societies in America: you can't chew gum on this side of the building, you can't walk on the grass unless it's after 9pm, you can't smoke a cigarette in this building or that building, but you can smoke over there (on Tuesday's and Thursdays), if you want to apply for a driver's license you have to fill out paperwork, stand in line for 45 minutes, take a vision test, then go stand in a different line for 30 minutes, take a written test, then wait 1 hour for someone to call your name for a road test. It just goes on and on and on and it drives you insane. I told him how much I hate that part of my own society. It's etched in my brain sometimes - so much that I often don't even think about it - I just blindly act like a robot out of habit.
Why is it like that here? Because "we" have made it that way. It's a result of a people's cumulative actions over time. Some time ago, you could smoke in public buildings. Then, someone decided they wanted to sue about that right. And so the law was changed. Then people began smoking outside the door of the buildings. Then maybe a building caught on fire from one of the cigarettes. Now there are laws that you have to be 25 feet away from the building before you can light a cigarette. It's like laws and regulations just keep accumulating higher and higher until you are so limited in what you can do, that you might as well just stay home and watch TV. I exaggerate, but we're losing some freedom in the process - freedom to be human, to light up a cigarette wherever you feel like it, to walk on the grass and laugh and play and act like a real person. But, I can't complain too much as I'm part of the society myself - so in some way I've probably helped to create it. It's a result of our cumulative actions over time. But, I guess I'm going down the "constitutional democracy" road here.
I'm a little unclear though, on the meat of your post. On one hand, I would say, "of course the people should be able to shape their own city! If they aren't going to shape it, who is? Someone from the outside?" So, I'd almost say that a city should be "totally malleable" to the lifestyles of its citizens - but cumulatively. In other words, I live in a city, but I myself cannot (and should not be able to) go outside and decide I want to reorganize the streets to my own liking and start reconstructing everything. Nor should I decide that I'll break a law because I don't like it. But, cumulatively, we as the citizens, should be able to do those things (make change). And being that it's cumulative, every individual within that society will be left wanting to some extent. No one person will have everything exactly the way he wants it, because everyone's ideal is just a little bit different. And we see that in practice every day - everyone complains at some point about something. If someone was fully content with their city, they'd never have a complaint.
But, I guess what I don't understand about your question is that you want an explanation that is more specific than a constitutional democracy. How would a people or a citizenry have any power to change or shape their environment (to fit their cumulative lifestyle) if they didn't have power or input through some sort of voting system or democracy? Or is that what you're asking? Are you basically asking if there is a better system than this that has not yet been introduced in the world?
While this thread is not in the philosophy or politics forums, such discussion is welcome (think Plato's Republic).