SWING CITY

"I believe this to be a singular Canadian Utopia: utopian and catatopia; Brobdingnangian and Lilliputian. A utopia that denies absolutes, an insight into the Canadian condition of pathos and indecisiveness."

Roger Kemble, 1968

There is little wrong with the Canadian urban scene that the realization of the, "just society", will not improve. If indeed our urban environment is unacceptable to the masses, and this is a question worthy of debate, it will only be improved by means of a political solution. Technology and economics have been developed to a high degree of sophistication and usability. The potential of these powerful tools is seriously hampered by irrational prejudice and reluctance to change on all levels of our society.

Now would be a good time in our history for us all to postulate new ideas, new prototypes, in the form of images and theoretical models. If many individuals were to offer for our scrutiny different ideas, embodying the future - some acceptable. Some not acceptable - it would be possible to create an aggregate of ideas. It would make possible the creation of a solid mesh upon which we could place the next strong foot-hold into the future.

Swing City Vancouver is a series of ideas or space probes, flung into the present, that embody a personal idea of the future. It is hoped that a feed-back will return ladened with a patina of attention upon which may grow many further ideas.

Swing City Vancouver is an allegorical expression of the new aspirations of freedom superimposed upon the old network of political intrigue. Ironically, the freedom proposed will be at the expense of, "freedom", in the traditional sense; or to be more explicit, "license for the few". Swing city gives us the freedom to chose to whom we wish to be a slave. It implies a higher order of discipline than merely abiding by the legality of lot lines and of stretching inelastic laws.

There is no attempt at stating new ideas. Probably there is nothing new under the Sun. Should there be an illusion of uniqueness, it is merely the personal twist of an old idea.

The reader is asked to allow his eye to wander over the kaleidoscopic choice of aphorisms, sketches and ideas and allow himself the freedom to make of then what he will. There is no need for continuity or lineal development. All that is presented is a mosaic of
intensions to be interpreted in whatever manner may be suitable for the occasion. Without being evasive, there is little attempt to pose the problem of in fact seek asolution. Recognizing the weakness of human beings, a lapse into statements may be inevitable, in spite of ourselves.

It is contended that we are in, or at least entering into, the computer age of great efficiency. In spite of this contention there is little evidence to show the average man on the street is prepared to let this happen. The board chairman may well be capable of lightening decisions but the man behind the desk still picks his nose. In the context of this man, regarding the urban scene, the term "form follows function", although still very valid, is completely misunderstood. For all our big organization efficiency, we are still saddled with dichotomy and confusion. This confusion becomes humorous when seen in close relation to our, "lip service homage to efficiency". It is the alienation of decision-making; the futility felt by the man at the desk that causes this confusion.

There is in our society a complete confusion of goals, our reason for being and the demands upon the individual. Perhaps this confusion would ease and perhaps our lives would have more meaning if we had no goals. Today we are completely incapable of deciding what we require amidst the bric-a-brac of our urban environment. But before long we are going to have to make a complete reappraisal of our needs. Indeed before long, throughout the western world there will have to be an exchange of power in total. This does not mean a change of faces at the top; it means the handing over of power from one strata of society to another. It means a possible end to democracy, as we know it, in the near future. It is necessary for us to approach life from a spiritual point of view, not relying on gadgets, free from the tyranny of consensus. It will become necessary to discover the richness that comes from diversity and harmony. How much more time is needed for us to recognize, "competitive free enterprise" as a ridiculous misnomer?

If it is important to experience an improvement in our urban environment, a possibility before us is the implementation of colourful diversity. Swing City illustrates the possibility of providing an ever-changing frame of reference (contiguous to the existing pattern). The buildings are appliances and "places to be" are capsulated environments. Between the, "places to be", between the appliances, exists the realm of the imagination of the beholder at the time.

Diversity is important and because of this, it is necessary to recognize the possibility for decay is as valid as that of growth. The two may well work together. So, in this context, Swing city is part of existing Vancouver and vice-versa. The influence of each upon the other will react to build a texture of richness that will allow a fun life for all the inhabitants.

Technically the structural frame of reference is a dream. The material polycite is a figment of the imagination. It isnecessary to devise this material because of the paucity of choice available amongst present building materials. The ability the framework has for change is computer calculated. The computer is constantly reassessing the stresses transmitted throughout the structure as bays become added or removed in many different directions. It is desirable that the accommodation may be removed, changed, increase or decreased at the press of a button.

Inherent in this ability for instant change is a reassessment in our attitude towards building. There is a need in fact for a complete change in attitude towards "things in general". Adornments, possessions, gadgets, things that coil about out emotions prevent enjoyment of the spiritual quality of humanity. The "gross national product" orientation of society does nothing more than hinder. Our desire to create large businesses, large organizations, at the expense of diversity is supposedly there in the name of efficiency. In practice what happens is the establishment of enclaves of ambitious young bucks playing the ego games: anything but efficient when viewed in the broader spectrum. All these creations, in the final analysis conspire against the finding of ourselves.

In Swing city buildings become appliances and "places to be" become capsulated environments or simply spaces between.

There is a tendency for the public to be tyrannized the strong personality of the designer. It is quite permissible for the designer to "seek himself" within the object he designs. Our urban scene is rampant with expressions of personal futility and frustrations of thwarted personalities attempting to find themselves in terms of bricks and mortar.
Perhaps if it is possible to set up a space, an enclosure, at the press of a button, or perhaps if an individual could choose his abode as he does a car, then there would be a more healthy attitude towards "things". There would be freedom to invest emotional energies in ourselves rather than in our frustrations.

By taking advantage of a high degree of development in technology, industry and economics, Swing City will make available many forms of capsulated environments from individual nose cone units, to Packsack Houses, to multi-pack communities. These will form part of the personal leased environment. "Nose cone" units are minimum sized bachelor pads; place them anywhere. "Packsack" houses are family units: portable in every respect. "Multi-pack" are units that allow several couples to live a s a tribe and bring up their children in a communal atmosphere.

The frame of reference, the structural grid upon which the idea of Swing City rests, provides support for the capsulated environments. In addition to this are loosely defined community services. Needless to say, duplication of facilities is to be avoided and concentration of services for some facilities will be necessary. Because of the instant reaction of computerization there will be little, need for centralization. However, power supply and disposal facilities all become concentrated and instantaneous. Bulk food, information, media, etc. will be available from a center source and processed on the way to "inter-facilities". These inter-facilities will provide availability at the press of a button to the individual.

Keeping in mind diversity, centralization is to be avoided. It may not be necessary to provide defined areas to specific functions. Because of our familiarity with a fragmented way of life, we are too ready to accept the use of segregated functions. Swing City will avoid fragmentation. For instance, the university or the school is recognized as an integral part of our way of life within every day activities. This is manifested not by allocating specific space to the university, but rather by allowing dialogue, instant availability of information and media to become a way of life.

In this city-state of idealism, Swing city expects utmost responsibility from its citizens. The citizens derive their power from their ability to need less. It is not necessary for them to be goaded by the promise of the "most-est" or the, "greatest". What power grabs may appear possible would probably be doused by a spontaneous collective, "opting out". In the spirit of, "this is simply not what we need".

Swing city depends upon the informal and spontaneous interaction of people being people. The more happenings that occur through spontaneous interaction, the richer will become the lives of all the citizens.

A population that is spiritually self-sufficient and independent of gadgeteering: this is the premise upon which swing City is proposed. It is said that this is idealism and is impractical, but how do we know? This idealism has never been tried.

The architect way back then.
I dunno!
Am I embarrassed?
Hell no, not at all.
I'm amazed at how prescient I was.
The instantaneous expectations
are a bit hokey:
fantasy and gadgeteering
naive!
But the idea of people
taking responsibility
still resonates!

Dawn points and another day prepares for heat and silence: T. S. Eliot