Bicycle Diaries, Emergent Architecture and David Byrne

David Byrne @ Bellhouse Jan 11, 2010 The incredible wise and creative Mr. David Byrne lectured in Providence at the invitation of the Mayor earlier this week. I hope this is an indication that the city is ready to look seriously at its bicycle infrastructure. Biking can be such a pleasant, and affordable, way to travel the city, and with Providence’s compact size we are missing a huge opportunity. The number one excuse I hear from potential bikers in Providence is the hills. Well, San Francisco has hills and they have still managed to embrace a bicycle culture. Real cities all over the country are putting biking on an equal footing with bus, rail and streetcar as a serious transit component. It was great to hear Mr. Byrne’s thoughts on the subject.

If you have not had the chance to read Mr. Byrne’s latest book, Bicycle Diaries, I highly recommend it. There was one particular chapter that has kept me thinking. Here is a quote:

“It is as if some genetic architectural propensity exists in us, that guides us, subtly and invisibly, as to how to best organize first a kiosk, then a stall, and from there add incrementally as our innate instincts guide us. Until soon enough there exists a whole marketplace and neighborhood.” – Bicycle Diaries, p.138

He is pointing out an interesting occurrence where public markets found throughout the globe are organized in strikingly similar forms. These forms are perhaps patterns that emerge from us humans as naturally as bees construct their hives or beavers their dams. The contemporary practice of urbanists and architects might be fancied with the theory of Emergent Architecture. However, I still think more focus is needed to fully apply this natural occurrence to the planning of our cities and towns.

Here is a link to more information about the David Byrne lecture. There is also some interesting writings over at Living Urbanism that are related to Emergent Architecture.

Photo by marc dalio

One thought on “Bicycle Diaries, Emergent Architecture and David Byrne

  1. restless urbanist

    “Most U.S. cities are not very bike friendly. They’re not pedestrian-friendly either. They’re car-friendly-or at least they try very hard to be. In most of these cities one could say that the machine won. Lives, city planning, budgets, and time are all focused around the automobile. It’s long term unsustainable and short-term lousy living.”

    These introductory words of Byrne’s book express my very feelings at this moment. I feel that we do live in a lousy world. What makes me feel even worse about this situation is that we spent a lot of time and money building this lousy place. Planners had to go out of their way to manipulate basic human needs that have brought us to this lousy place.

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