Journey two: From Danger to Going in Circles
The story so far:
Our journalist, Max, is using a method of visualisation to travel to sustainable places. It seems to be working. On his first visit he discovered they have done away with cars. And they walk everywhere. Confounded by this observation he formulates his next quest: how can you create a city where everyone walks?
Tapescript part one
I'm sitting on a wooden bench in the waiting area again. Behind me is some kind of succulent plant. Round the corner I see the lift I went up earlier. I see more lifts. I go over to a grey one, seems rather unassuming.
There is a red light above a button with the 'call' on it and some buttons under it. It arrives and opens. This one is different from the first, it is fitted with mirrors.
There's a guy in here I say 'Hi' to him.
He says; 'Do you want to do this?'
'Yes. Is it dangerous?'
'There's a war on.'
I ask the guy for help, I tell him how important it is to find sustainable solutions. While I am saying this I realise two things:
1) I am in the wrong lift.
2) If you are looking for environmental- friendliness the last place you want to look is in a war-zone.
I learn something every time.
Tapescript part two
Wiser now, I get back to the lift I saw before with its beige enamel exterior. The big wheel is still there and the button with 'OK' on it. The door closes. The lift goes up. It opens at the place I was before – a foyer, to the right an airport in front of me a kiosk and stairs leading down to the park area.
They have some kind of special activity going on with placards everywhere. One placard says PORENA.
They have hung up flags, too. I turn left and walk along the corridor.
They have put up bits of trees to decorate the corridor walls. It's very nice. The decoration has a natural styling to it, bringing me close to a feeling of being in nature. The sun is shining through the corridor which forms a bridge that passes over some kind of road or walkway. I know what I expect. It's still gravel.
I suddenly get a flash of the gravel path once having been a road with many cars passing along it. Of course! I asked to go to a place that had solved the problem. So there is a historical development I could investigate if I wanted.
I walk along a bit and see that the main part of the building is one story up. I also get impression that there are many openings like the one I just passed over.
This is to not break the continuity of the natural surroundings, and so that people can walk everywhere without having to make detours around long buildings.
I come across a collection of offices.
The first one is the office of leaves, whatever that means. It contains workbenches and what looks like grey steel filing cabinets.
'We are cataloguing them', says the girl.
'Something to do with structure?'
'That's right', she says. 'It is for what we call biomimicry - finding examples of engineering design from nature to mimic in our own engineering. It is useful for engineering comparisons, calculations, explanations, mechanics etc.'
I walk on. I now see the building I am in is sort of on stilts to allow access between one side and the other - it's easy for people to walk everywhere. Precisely what my first visit told me.
Although I am surprised, because it's just too simple. It's such a simple way to reduce ecological footprint.
I am now entering an office which deals with another cornerstone of the ecologically sustainable country – planning.
I see from diagrams on the wall that the park I visited last time is actually the centre of the city. The park is surrounded by buildings placed radially.
The building I am in is used for work. I inspect the plans closer. The city looks a bit like a mandala - one of those Indian paintings. The outside rings are residential.
Residencies are located on the periphery to bring them close to nature.
There is a computer program behind all this. Everything is carefully calculated to place everything in walking distance of everything else.
But there's more. The whole calculation is based on the understanding of stress. If you know what stresses people it is easy to work out optimal proximities.
A guy offers me a green drink.
'Have a drink -it's green vitamins made from the water plant Spirogena. Go on, Chlorophyll's good for you.'
Leaves again! These guys have another feeling for nature than I do.
Anyway the Spirogena drink is minty, quite good. Reminds me of mint tea.
'So, what do you do here?' I ask.
'Town planning and architecture and radiality. Ten kilometres. Everything is 10kmor less from the centre.'
'And the plan allows food to grow everywhere. We take every opportunity to grow food.'
'It seems to me,' I muse, 'that the further you go out the harder it is to get around as the further you have to walk.'
The guy looks at me and tries to convince me that I still haven't got it and have forgotten the water.
I'm not much of a town planner myself, I was hoping for something like an invention. He informs me that the science of radiality is highly developed, with mathematical formulae underlying the practice. And books are available.
My last question: 'Do you work with radiality then?'
'Good gracious no. Work is much too stressful. It stresses the organism too much. No-one works in Porena.'
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Tapescript part three: Trains
I wander off further down the corridor. A blue and white sign is directing me to the TRAINS. There's the C train and there might be another, an A train I'm not sure.
'Where does the C train go?' I ask a passer-by.
'In a circle.'
I walk down the stairs and stand on the platform. First, I am struck by the look of the train. It looks kind of old and rickety. Secondly, I see an interesting principle: The separation of the biosphere from technology. They treat the biosphere as one living organism, and as far as possible keep machines away from it.
Radiality…why does that come up? I guess if you have a city-planning concept built on circles it makes sense for a train to go in circles.
I have taken in a lot of impressions, and frankly I'm feeling tired so I retrace my steps back to the lift.
I pass an ancient looking weighing machine with 'I Speak Your Weight' on it.
This time I buy one of the artichokes from the kiosk before stepping back into the lift.
Sustainable technology encountered during journey two
• Radiality= the city planning concepts used to fulfil the ambition of everything being in walking distance from everything.
• Trains going in circles=see above and everything within walking distance.
• Encapsulation= separating technology – the technosphere – from the biosphere.
• Old technology= I am not sure about this one, but they seemed like they were keen to keep old stuff, the rationale I leave you and my next visit to ponder over.
• The organism= (maybe I met this earlier) the Porena name given to the 'animal' side of the human. I guess as opposed to the 'spirit, heart, intellect' (I am guessing wildly).
• Not working= work (quote) stresses the organism too much.
Next week: Our intrepid reporter takes the helm of an advanced transport system to discover how you can grow food for a whole city when no-one is employed in farming.
See the blog about "Connecting Peace and Sustainable development"
Learn about Urban Walking maps
See all the chapters of the book published online, so far.