My vocation, that is, urbanism or “making cities better”, is concerned with the supportive function of places and institutions in the pursuit, by individuals and communities, of self-improvement and self-governance. The opportunity space for the work is defined by three large categories of human endeavor:
the development, through the agency of individual effort, of ever deepening personal capacities and ever deepening social bonds, with the ‘production of social meaning’ as both means and ends;
the formation, strengthening, and renewal of institutions, paradigms and norms, and their ongoing maintenance and re-calibration toward the changing needs of the individuals and communities they serve; and
the production, signification, entitlement, and emancipation of urban spaces; and the maintenance, reconfiguration, and defence of those spaces in the course of their service to institutions, communities and individuals.
Each of the three has a characteristic tilt, an organic vectored flow that defines each domain with regard to purposes that can be aspirational or prescriptive.
Individual development grows toward deepening the meaning and satisfaction derived from an individual’s efforts; and toward drawing those efforts into increasing alignment with the efforts and goals of a group, in the service of enriching and increasing the production of social meanings.
Institution-building grows toward the codification of patterns and the accumulation of resources, most essentially the resources of attention, channeled (through patterning) toward enunciated causes, and of the resources of reputation, held in reserve to collateralize risky efforts and legitimize difficult change.
Placemaking grows toward: engendering a unique sense of identity, a genus loci verging on personhood; deepening a quality of immersion, the gesamtkunstwerk that lets habitat merge with self-image; and increasing the performative, social catalytic effectiveness of place, its capacity to metabolize social energies and to channel and conventionalize the production of social meanings.
For more on the practice of urbanism: An Overview of Urbanism