Compromises and comparisons of complete communities




Donaldson, Kristin Lenore

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Many planners throughout history have attempted to achieve a holistic society through physical and policy planning. Garden Cities of To-morrow by Ebenezer Howard is a mainstay in planning curriculum, and yet activities today are still considered fringe in the professional field. Howard’s vision of well-connected network of mostly self sustaining towns, provided with local food, jobs, commerce, and recreational space is generally viewed as positive, pleasant, even admirable- but ultimately impractical. Today, no theme is more central to the minds of planners than sustainability. A concept that encapsulates environmental, social, and economic concerns, sustainability is a great challenge. Planners try to find balance between, and often act as intermediaries between competing networks of stakeholders, vying for more power over the two other spheres. However, communities that have self-organized have reached a level of success and sustainability beyond chance. These communities could serve as a model for the wider planning community going forward. This research hopes to address questions surrounding the ways in which communities can increase sustainability through providing services, and if or how these insights may inform planning on a wider scale. This report investigates how these visions and ideals are being attempted in the United States today. There is a range of scales and a variety of approaches to create places that are holistic. Three sites serve as examples of the breadth of communities, ranging from Twin Oaks Ecovillage and Intentional Community, the Greater World Community created by Earthship Biotecture, and the town of Arcosanti. These sites were examined using a two-part matrix including food, water, employment, education, energy, healthcare, entertainment, transportation, and housing in part one and ownership schemes and affordability in part two. Climate and controversies were also considered. This matrix was partially inspired by The Austin Area Sustainability Indicators project. Research revealed that there were common themes among the communities despite their differences, among them being a spirit of revolution, progressive ideals, and novel technology. Further, it was found that the most sustainable or complete community was not necessarily the most applicable to the wider planning field.


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