I have some relationship advice for anyone looking to, as Generation Y says today, ‘hook up’ with a town planner.
Now I know you might find this topic a little tawdry and perhaps even a little odd. But bear with me. My line of enquiry will bear fruit.
If your heart is set aflutter by a town planner, do you know how to win their affection? Easy. All you do is whisper sweet words in their ear and they go weak at the knees. And the magic words you should use are not ‘love’ or ‘lust’ but ‘urban’ and ‘village’.
Oooh, the very thought sends shivers down a planner’s spine. In fact, direct these words sequentially to a town planner and their eyes will roll back in their head and waves of pleasure will ripple across their face. Or at least that’s my theory because I have never had cause to try it out. I am all talk!
But I have no doubt that my strategy d’amour would work a treat. You see, town planners all think the same. They love urban villages. In fact, they want to create urban villages everywhere.
Planners have primal, guttural, sensual urban village urges that no other species has. According to the Town Planner’s Behavioural Manifesto, anyone who is not living in an urban village is either a philistine or a bogan or both.
And if for some bizarre reason the term ‘urban village’ doesn’t win the affection of your desired (nay, lusted) town planner, then try this: get up close, look them in the eye, and unblinking say “I think you are absolutely sustainable”. Yes, “sustainable”. But when you say this make sure you stand back because this particular town planner will explode with pleasure.
Now while town planners are all focused on delivering “sustainable urban villages” in the densest parts of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, I’m not entirely sure that this is what the punters actually want.
There’s a romanticism about a village that is just not applicable to modern lifestyles. The village works well in a rural setting where children frolic on the common and where people stop and chat to the vicar and his wife on the High Street. The point of a village is that everyone knows everyone and everyone looks out for everyone.
The village is a picture of bucolic bliss, so why wouldn’t town planners want to replicate this concept in modern life? But I don’t think that an urban village is a concept that fits with the way people want to live today.
I don’t want to especially become involved with my neighbours or indeed with my suburban neighbourhood. According to Chapter 3 of the Manifesto this makes me “isolated from the rest of the community”. No, I’m not isolated. I am very much at the centre of a rich, vibrant and warm community that revolves around me and my workplace. I don’t need to connect with the locals when I go home. No offence intended to my neighbours who might be reading this. (Then again they probably aren’t reading this; they’re probably promenading and chatting with the vicar and his wife.)
Like many others, I receive validation from a supportive community in the workplace; when I go home of an evening I do not want to chat over the fence to a neighbor or to discuss politics with the butcher. In fact, I don’t feel the need to know my butcher and I don’t want my butcher to know me. “Chops thanks” is as far as my butcher-inclined conversation goes. I regard my suburban home as a hotel. I go to my room to eat, sleep and recuperate, and to engage with my immediate family. I socialise in areas and with people located beyond my local geography.
I know this is a difficult concept for town planners to get their heads around, but I’m positive I’m not alone. If I am correct and there are others like me, then the sort of housing we should be building apartments with minimal communal facilities. No central green. No butcher shops. No public seating. No boules patch. No Zen garden for reflection.
If I want to reflect I’ll sit in my car in the basement carpark of my work. Dark and quiet. I love it down there.
And no need for promenades for non-existent vicars. I don’t want places to stop and chat. Just efficient hotel-like apartments located close to the CBD with good views and all mod cons.
The Manifesto states clearly that there should be a diversity of housing in all major cities. Well, how about housing that is cheap, well positioned but which offers minimal integration with the local community?
Perhaps this is the type of accommodation that we should be investing in and not apartments in idealised but not very practical sustainable urban villages.
KPMG Partner Bernard Salt is also an adjunct professor at Curtin University Business School; Twitter.com/bernardsalt; Linkedin/BernardSalt; firstname.lastname@example.org