Discover the world outside your bubble
June 14, 2017
As urban designers and planners, we seek solutions to help folks get what they need within a small swath of geography. A focus on mixed use development and walkable solutions means more folks will be able to get around on foot or bike from home, to work, to public green spaces for recreation, to retailers to do their shopping and to service providers’ offices. We work to combat the short-sighted, vehicle-centric planning practices of the second half of the 20th century that result in sprawl. We tout placemaking as a way to increase community engagement with a community’s assets.
These strategies proceed bit by bit, and they take time. If successful, these communities develop a distinctive neighborhood character, and its residents, businesses and other stakeholders become more connected with one another. An unintended consequence is that once a community member’s needs are met within this mixed-use framework, he or she starts to exist in a bubble.
The NPR podcast Invisibilia recently profiled a successful millennial named Max Hawkins who recognized that his own daily routine had created a bubble around himself. It was, as the show points out, a beautiful bubble, with lots of inviting sights, friendly people, good food and many more pleasing things to enjoy. Nonetheless, his commute, work environment and home neighborhood exerted a limited effect on his experience. So he created an app to help him discover experiences he never would have happened upon from within the shiny sphere that insulated him.
We will let you listen to the story yourself. Perhaps you’ll recognize the ways in which you’ve built your own bubble around yourself. Is it a beautiful bubble like Max’s? Even if it is, are there ways you could expand your experience by “randomizing” it just a bit? Maybe for an hour a week? Half a day? Or several times a month?
Walkable cities and placemaking will always be worthy endeavors for us. But we’re also driven to provide connectivity, both within and between the urban centers where lots of life takes place. There’s nothing wrong with a bubble, but isn’t it nice to occasionally squeak past its protective membrane and travel through the bubbles of those around us? Travel doesn’t have to be overseas. Sometimes the next bubble over is worth the bounce.