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Monday, July 15, 2013


Have you ever thought what is Home? Where is it for you? How does it make you feel? 

Every city has a special element that plays a significant role for each resident or visitor to comfortably develop a connection with that city. That one special element is always directly or indirectly connected to the city's quality of public life. 

The standards and expectations of public life vary for every one of us dwellers -from the amount of green/open space, to having many cultural and entertainment choices, high quality restaurants and dining options, etc. And if a city can manage to hold as many of those options to satisfy as many residents and visitors (lest not forget about the tourists) as possible, then it becomes an ideal place to live for numerous people. 

Which is one of New York City's best attributes: always aiming to please.There is always something interesting and enticing for any type of resident or visitor around any corner of the city. But it’s never enough. 

We can never limit the quality of a city's public life to a particular capacity, as every person, every user group, every ethnic group, is constantly evolving as time goes by. Consequently the public needs and expectations are changing, and therefore the quality of public life, which is significantly defined by the city's public spaces, must also evolve at that pace. Clearly innovative design strategies and implementation methods are the core steps of for accomplishing such success, but the key factor is to take an inclusive and well-informed approach. Which for designers means: do your homework, not only study the space but also study the potential user-groups' needs, the community's culture, the social standards, and of course opportunities and limitations of the city's rules and policies. 

In light of the upcoming major developments in NYC, such as Hudson Yards, Midtown-East Rezoning, West Chelsea, Downtown Brooklyn, and (sadly, as rumor has it) Chinatown, a new city culture and placemaking shift could be upon us quite quickly. As each of the neighborhoods go through new changes, due to the new developments imbedded in them, the sense of place goes through an alteration. This could potentially change (enhance or diminish), the naturally developed sense of attachment for existing residents and frequent visitors. And at the same time, a new sense of place is created for those to come. All these changes are mainly directed by not only the design of the (to-be) built environment, but most importantly, its integration with the existing city fabric and culture that surrounds the neighborhoods undergoing such change.

Consequently, it could also be a perfect opportunity to evolve our city’s culture by injecting innovative design strategies and programmatic policies that not only could introduce new features to our daily public culture, encourage productive social interactions, increase physical activities, but overall, contribute to increasing the quality of our social and public health. Especially, considering the cultural shift that we are going through nowadays, caused by our vast technological advancement. The rapid development of digital dependency, from social media to online shopping that we are all guilty of these days, has normalized a peculiar type of social isolation that is ultimately increasing every year. 

So, back to: Home.
How do you describe and measure your sense of home, your emotional and mental attachment to a place, and your expectations of any new changes to that sense of attachment? 

One of the most fascinating reasons why NYC holds such a special place in my heart is because of its great resemblance to Tehran, while being significantly different at the same time.  NYC holds many of the desirable features that Denver and Tehran commonly have (the two cities that I grew up in), while excluding some unpleasant factors that I always had a hard time with while living in those two cities. However, ultimately, NYC has become what I wanted it to become for me, while perhaps my personal expectations and requirements for developing a deeper sense of attachment exceeded the capacity which Denver and Tehran could hold. 

Photo by: آرش آشوری نیا

The point is, we have an active role in the process of developing a mental/emotional connection to the space and built environment that we live in. Whether a community, neighborhood, or city, becomes desirable for us to live in, or even visit, the image is what we make of it ourselves. 

What do you want from a city to feel like home, or for many of us, for it to become your “home away from home”? 

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