BOREALIS - THE LIVING UNIVERSITY OF THE NORTH
STAGE I : PROJECT EASEL : THE EXPERIMENTAL URBAN MODULE
(A.) Problem: Cities vs. People
We are slowly becoming aware of the need for people-oriented innovations in the urban planning of our present cities. These cities have become economic centers bustling with activity, but places where human needs and desires assume a secondary role to primary economic considerations. Moreover, as the economic system is based on expansion, all activities toward this end have by necessity enlarged. The city as a result has grown and grown, knowing no limits, until we have come to huge, unmanageable, and quite indefinable "conurbations".
This expansion and drive for growth increasingly pervades the entire society, replacing the local butcher, baker or tailor with large, impersonal international chain supermarkets, department stores, and factories where personal relationships of the customer and client, employer and employee are lost. Man is reduced to being a number - an dispensable cog in a gigantic economic machine in which identity, fulfillment, and expression are more and more rarely found.
To this urban crisis has been added the dimension of an even greater and more alarming crisis - that of the environment.. The two are inextricably interwoven: we cannot hope to reduce environmental destruction without dealing with urban sprawl and pollution; yet, we cannot hope to solve urban problems without an approach responding to greater awareness of our natural environment and our relationship to it. Previous attempts to remedy problems on either front have mostly produced short-term, stop-gap measures which most often have complicated and intensified the long-range situation. Thus we have begun to understand that a more total approach and comprehension is necessary, and moreover, that this total approach means an adjustment of priorities.
The adjustments required are those resulting from an environmental attitude which realizes that man's survival depends on his achieving a balance with nature, not on continuing expansion and exploitation. This attitude is no more restrictive to humankind than is the fact that his body reaches a limit in physical growth beyond which point further growth is detrimental to his well-being. It is just at the point of physical maturity that man can turn his full creative energies toward unknown and unlimited mental and spiritual depths. Currently our industrialized cities give humans little time for mental relaxation or spiritual contemplation on and few quiet, accessible places for his retreat.
The Need is Now
Thus we conclude that our urban centres urgently require transformation not only of their environmental relationship if we are going to reverse the trend of ecological destruction, but also of city forms if cities are to be more responsive and supportive of the needs of humans. In September of 1971 the Canada Science Council Report #14 recommended the following: "We strongly urge that funds be made available for experimentation necessary to adapt our communities to new forms of living in the remainder of this century". However, with 70% of our Canadian population now living in urban areas and a projected 90% by the year 2000, we may ask how our cities with their already over-charged systems and resources shall be able to initiate dramatically new experimental programs which could improve their quality of life and reduce their negative impact on the environment.
(B.) Solution: Cities for Humankind through Experimentation
It is out of these considerations that we see Project Easel as attacking urban problems through a preventive approach. In combining the need for a satellite city and there-by aiding present cities by alleviating population pressures on them, plus the need for experimental programs which, in another setting, can be more far-reaching than present urban structures permit, this project can offer new alternatives both to our present city problems and to future trends in urban development. This Experimental Urban Module will serve as the testing ground for ecologically-oriented technologies as well as offering experimentation in economic, social and educational systems.
To put forward an idea of such an experimental city is to invite the slightly derogatory name of "utopian". We believe that such an appellation would be a misunderstanding of this project. Utopias are traditionally the brainchild of a thinker who, as Lewis Mumford points out, designs an ideal world which is a reaction against where he is. Anyone acquainted with the behavioral sciences knows that reactionary behavior is far less free and open than that which is reacted against and should not be confused with solutions which evolve from scientific and practical experimentation in this case interdisciplinary research groups. Project Easel's task is to form the frame for a Canadian Experimental city. The framework will be founded on research. The urban crisis is one of the greatest preoccupations of our time, and in hundreds if not thousands, of places throughout the world people are researching these problems, studying solutions, experimenting with alternatives, and expressing ideas of another kind of city a city based on man and his needs. We seek to bring together and give concrete realization to these studies and ideas, to extend the horizons of present thought, and to offer a new model in urban forms - a model for Canada and the World.
Proposal Goals Stage I
Our intention is to establish a team of 20 to 25 professional and helping personnel to work for a period of 12 months, orienting themselves towards:
1.) Gathering and compiling all previous information on other proposals and projects for a better human environment; establishing contacts with all organization or groups interested in this field;
2.) Defining some specific proposals and directions of research concerning the present trends in urban environment and inquiring into the evolution of urban settlements and urban humans;
3.) Planning and detailing an experimental module of up to 2,000 persons, intended as a working prototype and information code for a future city. This experimental research module will become a neighborhood in that future city of circa 100,000 persons;
4.) Surveying a suitable geographic base for both the module and the future city, starting "in loco the preliminary studies and applications on the relations between the two types of environment (natural and man-made) towards a possible balance;
5) Developing a system of public relations information exchange, testing and debating through the media and/or open seminars and lectures so that a good level of public involvement, concern, and participation in this project is achieved.
In short, we project to research and design a process whereby city planning can always be a vehicle to the needs of people and evolve harmoniously with them.
Stages of the Borealis Project