Category Archives: Issue No. 2: Slow & Terroir

PREAMBLE

ROME VIEWED FROM A TERRACE ABOVE THE CAMPO DE' FIORI

ROME VIEWED FROM A TERRACE ABOVE THE CAMPO DE' FIORI

What gives us pleasure is experience. Even with a beloved object, like a painting, we never see it the same way twice. The light changes, our eyes see the colors differently, or the room is warmer or colder.
For several years I’ve been writing about how to apply the lessons of the Slow Food movement to the development of Bay Regional towns and cities. This new issue of Common Place …

THE PLEASURES OF THE DEMOTIC CITY

THE ROOFSCAPE OF ROME'S HISTORIC CENTER

THE ROOFSCAPE OF ROME'S HISTORIC CENTER

By demotic I mean arising from the individual, everyday actions of ordinary people, motivated by their immediate needs and circumstances and responding intuitively and sometimes creatively to the traditions and patterns of the society in which they find themselves. The pleasures that a city offers reflect both the nature and administration of its underlying framework and the tastes and initiatives of its citizens. They also reflect the relative power and influence of these two realms. Ideally, each …

NOT TOO SLOW, NOT TOO SMART


THE “VICTORY” GARDEN AT SF’s CITY HALL

THE “VICTORY” GARDEN AT SF’s CITY HALL

Can we “slow” the growth of San Francisco’s metropolitan region without stopping it? By Slow, we refer to the Slow Food movement and its CittaSlow offshoot, especially in their emphasis on the value and pleasures of regional difference. “Without stopping it” is to acknowledge the region’s projected growth. Our title’s smart refers to smart growth—livable is another favored adjective, both endorsing density without always asking what it means in practice. Like the Buddha, we seek …

OUR SLOWBAY MANIFESTO

Here is our first draft of a manifesto for a Slow Bay Region that affords urbanity and pleasure while still accommodating the growth in population that experts are projecting.

Create boundaries for density, not just growth

We need to cut through the current impasse by agreeing on what we mean by density in each and every area where development can still occur. Density is not just an abstraction; it has to serve communities and support their existing residents as well as new ones. There’s nothing wrong with establishing goals for density, but they have to contribute in clear and fundamental ways to …

URBAN TERROIR


CONGREGATION BETH SHOLOM

CONGREGATION BETH SHOLOM

Terroir refers to the conditions of terrain and microclimate in wine-growing regions and, more specifically, within a given vineyard. It takes in those attributes of place that influence the grapes and thus the wine. Terroir is an evolving context, subject to human intervention and to the vicissitudes of nature in a larger sense. It evolves, but the pace of evolution of its different elements can vary radically. As a mix of the found and the cultivated, terroir can be improved, revived, diminished, and …

POSTSCRIPT: LOOKING BEYOND SLOW

I went to see my friend and writing partner Richard Bender earlier today, and we talked about where to take this. We both feel that, with these three essays, we’ve exhausted Slow as a topic. Yet it’s a potent metaphor, as is terroir. Where do they point?

Ivan Illich surfaced while I was writing the third essay. His willingness to make fundamental critiques of received wisdom on education, healthcare, transit, water, gender, and, behind them, of modern life itself, and to pose radical alternatives, makes him the man of the hour. When I read David Cacey’s interviews with Illich, I got …

BOOK REVIEW: WHAT REMAINS

In his Modern Architecture, Kenneth Frampton distinguishes critical regionalism from regionalism as “a spontaneously produced” vernacular. Critical regionalism is intended “to identify those recent regional ‘schools’ whose primary aim has been to reflect and serve the limited constituencies in which they are grounded.” It depends on “a certain prosperity,” he writes, as well as “some kind of anti-centrist consensus, an aspiration at least to some form of cultural, economic and political independence.” Like Lewis Mumford before him, Frampton counts San Francisco as such a school. A new book by the architect and critic Pierluigi Serraino, NorCalMod, challenges this view…