We’re city people here at BUILD. We live in the city, we work in the city, and we play in the city. This lifestyle is a choice and we appreciate everything that an urban environment has to offer, both good and bad. The amenities offered by an urban environment, like coffee shops, restaurants and book stores, become necessities for us city dwellers. The coffee shop is our living room <ahem, you’re in my seat> and the book store is our library <what, I have to pay for this?>. Leaving the car at home and bumping into friends on the sidewalk is a part of our daily culture and it makes for an extraordinary quality of life. There’s also the graffiti, the noise and the inevitable shenanigans that accompany urban life –and we take these in stride. We realize that diversity means that not everything is catering to us. It’s precisely this diversity or “pluralism” (if you want to get academic) that makes urbanism so rich with new experiences and ideas.
This concept of pluralism means that everyone is invited to the party; the mom-n-pop shops as well as the big box stores; the mega-coffee chain as well as the independent café; the Chinese restaurant with the numbered menu <#34, hold the MSG> as well as the one-off artisan bistro –and everything in between. It’s this variety in scale, character and ethnicity that makes for a rich “urban fabric” (yes, you will receive college credit for reading this post). From the granular neighborhoods to the large downtown retailers, it all adds up to create one cohesive, productive and engaging environment. The little guys need the big guys and vice versa. When it’s a healthy balance, everybody wins.
Lately, though, we’re noticing a dangerous evolution. The big guys are becoming so large and dominating that they’re endangering the smaller, more diverse shops. The big guys are effectively wiping out the urbanism and (in our opinion) negatively impacting the health of cities. As convenient as it has become, the online shopping so heavily encouraged by the big guys is depleting the city of pedestrian commerce and replacing it with enormous warehouses located in industrial parks that you’ll never see <can I get some help on aisle 97B?>.
For instance, here in Seattle we’ve watched Amazon.com grow into an extremely successful model, maybe too successful, as the existence of smaller bookshops all over town is being threatened. Other cities are already watching the extinction of important smaller shops, like Chicago’s now closed Prairie Avenue Books (previously the most treasured architectural bookstore in the U.S.) This is just one slice of the overall situation, of course, but it tends to split people into two camps; those who desire or rely on diverse urban environments and those who don’t. For those who don’t, no problem –happy lawn mowing and internet shopping to you. However, those of us in the urbanism camp have an important decision to make; do we feel strongly enough about the quality of our cities to financially invest in them? And if so, we need to vote with our money. Aligning our spending with our values supports urbanism and reinforces a high quality of life. If you buy your design books from a mega-online retailer, then shops like Peter Miller Books on 1st avenue here in Seattle will disappear –it’s that simple. Yes, the books at smaller shops tend to be more expensive –primarily because they’re paying downtown rent and offering that urban experience that you enjoy so much. It requires a different thinking cap; you’re not just buying a book, you’re investing in the city and the experiences around you.
So, needless to say, supporting urbanism is pretty darn important to us and we’re going to wrap up today’s post by putting our money where our mouth is with a $100 gift certificate to Peter Miller Books in Seattle (our favorite design book store). You don’t need to live in Seattle to use it; we can send it to whatever part of the world that you call home and you can visit the shop or phone in your order. Here are the deets:
WHAT: The BUILD LLC Support Urbanism Giveaway
WHEN: Starting October 18th
WHO: Anybody that’s got a twitter account or is willing to start one
HOW: Hop onto our twitter feed and retweet any of our tweets containing the hashtag title #supporturbanism. We’ll be randomly selecting a winner from the retweets and we’ll get some Peter Miller spending power in your hands.
WHY: Because Urbanism Matters
DOES $100 ACTUALLY COVER THE COST OF AN ARCHITECTURE BOOK: We’re not sure, but we’ll let the winner sort that one out.
Cheers from team BUILD