Posh to be Poor?
I've been reading a lot of articles lately, and as wrong as it may sound, it seems as though poor is the new black in the Western World. Now I don't mean more people are becoming poor, because that's obviously true, but it seems that lately a lot of professionals have drawn inspiration from the condition. For example, the Times ran an article about architect Teddy Cruz and his social housing experiment in the Hudson River Valley. The development, which features a modern day mesh of architectural elements, draws inspiration and, at times, form, directly from favelas.
Another prime example is seen in the press that a group of British artists received when they essentially hijacked a vacant multi-million dollar mansion. Late last year, the artist collective Da! moved their group into 18 Upper Grosvenor Street, one of London's more exclusive neighborhoods. They lived and worked here for at least a month with no word from the owners and no word from the cops. I can see this becoming a trend in America, with so many mansions going into foreclosure or sitting on the open market. Perhaps there will be a slight role reversal, where the homeless end up taking over these huge mansions because nobody can afford them or to maintain them. I mean, you can already get 3000 sq ft of 1920's craftsmanship for under 100k in Detroit, why even waste your time with money anymore? Just move in! Some cities are even working on programs to move the homeless into foreclosed homes, according to Fox News. If you want a mansion for nothing, now just may be your chance.
Finally, one of my favorite artists/designers just released a transportable abode for the homeless. I know this has been an ongoing project in every architecture school in the world for the last 50 years, but nobody does it quite like James Westwater. There is something compelling about his project, "homeless chateau," and the idea of living in a rectangular prism in an abandoned warehouse. How different is this from living in a warehouse loft? Having neither heat nor electricity would be rough, but you're not paying $3000 a month. Anyways, I'm not really suggesting these are real lifestyle choices that will become widely popular anytime soon; I'm simply suggesting these ideas are growing in popularity.
In order to dig further into this idea that we are being inspired by the conditions of being poor -- conditions that will increasingly affect the middle class worldwide -- I will investigate 3 divisions of urban planning which directly connect to choices in lifestyle and are dictated by income. Those divisions are Transportation, Food, and Shelter. Over the next 2 weeks I will dive into each category and explore the trends that are leading to a more frugal lifestyle for citizens of big cities.
(Photo from NYT, Gurdian, and James Westwater. The original full-sized color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)