There is Safety in Building a Culture of Community
Let’s define a few words. Safety is the condition of keeping yourself and others protected from harm. Building, in this case, is the action and process of constructing something. It’s intentional. Culture is a large and diverse set of mostly intangible aspects of social life. Community is a group of people living and interacting with one another in a particular environment. As an Architect, I solve puzzles. Some big, some small. Sometimes those puzzles require overcoming problems with certain aspects that I cannot change. In those cases, my job is to solve the puzzle in spite of the known unchangeable difficulty. Stay with me on this…
Lately, I’ve been putting a lot of thought and effort into one word… “community”. I deal in the physical (buildings), but intermingled in creating community (physical) is the ultimate goal of creating community (relationally). While there are many reasons for the promotion this “culture of community”, one has stood out more and more since beginning the outline of these thoughts… safety.
I don’t watch or listen to the news or media. As someone with many irons in the fire, I have little time to commit to those who generally waste theirs yelling at each other. However, I am not blind to the tragedy currently absorbing many places in this world. Even while this writing was started a week ago, it is three back-to-back tragic headlines tonight that prompted me to finish it. So what does tragedy have to do with building a culture of community? It’s because I’ve chosen one of the most simple and complex problems to overcome as one of the main drivers of this effort… evil.
At the risk of turning a post into a book, I’ll leave these thoughts as to how I believe there is safety in building a culture of community. I am not foolish enough to think we’ll root out evil in this life. But I do believe that our built environment has a role to play in reducing it and naturally increasing safety. First, we can create a safe physical community where measures are taken to reduce and potentially eliminate the feasibility of negative actions. Maybe it’s simply applying an open-concept design to our cities. Eliminating the shadows where evil, literally, grows in many cases. Second, we can create a safe relational community where people interact in a way that results in the growth of… well… decent humans. A place where everyone lives in a way where evil isn’t cultivated and, when recognized, is addressed appropriately.
So when people ask me why I’m putting so much thought into development in South Arkansas, this post barely scratches the surface of one of the many reasons. Maybe this is better served in some type of utopian novel. Will it be perfect… no. Will it help us do better… hopefully. In the end, I recognize that these are not goals that are accomplished in any day, week, or year of work. These are the wheels that I look to set into motion and hope to see the fruit of in my lifetime. For those who do see it, they will be better for it.