Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Times

In the midst of our current financial predicament, folks like myself in the design community are wondering what lies in store for our futures. Others are proceeding with work, even if the schedules have been delayed. Personally, I have been thinking less about what to build (since I'm out of a job) and have been more concerned with the use of the built (or destroyed) environment.

As I prepare to embark on a new academic adventure in the autumn and am already a month into my new role as a father, I am thinking more about what I will be studying while simultaneously wondering what my wife and I will be doing about childcare. In case you didn't know, childcare is very hard to come by in Seattle (and maybe in all cities?). The waiting list at Mother's, on 12th, across from Cafe Presse is more than a year; at Wallingford Child Care it's at least eight months and then they select children whose age corresponds to their openings. At UW, it's up to three years unless one of the parents is a full-time student, living in family housing...and so on. It's all business, I suppose, but it leaves me wondering why there aren't more child care centers in the city.

My first inclination is that people with kids move out to suburbs. Is this right? I'm not sure. I've been reading William Whyte's The Organization Man and recently finished a portion on how suburbs are designed around children, both physically and socially. Another guess is that people who can afford to raise kids in the city either have enough money for the mother to stay home or to hire nannies (bike rides around the north end of Capitol Hill and Queen Anne seem to confirm this assertion).

Returning to the initial reason that I started this blog (forming a group to develop a green, multi-family building, in which we would live after construction), I wonder if a sort of mixed-use building with a day care center at the base would help promote child-rearing in the city? Perhaps we could set ourselves apart from other childcare centers by only hiring people with early childhood education degrees? I know there are some co-operative preschools out there whose model we could follow, and possibly integrate into the building organization itself (though I would not want to create a sort of kids-only building, just kid-friendly).

Of course, hardly anyone is building anything now, and they are certainly not building weird buildings for people like me. But the fact remains that buildings with such amenities (as opposed to the typical nail salon, Subway restaurant, tanning salon, and check-cashing spot) might make a better contribution toward the overall quality of life for the neighborhood. Regarding funding for the construction, I've even wondered if there is a way to create a fund in which neighborhood residents could deposit a small portion of their retirement? This would, in my mind, be a more productive way (though not necessarily a more profitable way?) to use our money than investing in Wal-Mart and the like. I might be wrong but, like Le Corbusier, I have enough time to wonder about these sorts of things lately.

As always, discussion is welcome and encouraged. And I apologize for being somewhat lazy with the posts.

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