Keynote Address - 13th Annual Affordable

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Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of Sustainability Given at the 13th Annual Affordable Comfort Conference, April 21, 1999

Underlying our philosophy of community design is the understanding from Christopher Alexander that the people of a place have a common design language consisting of design patterns embedded in their culture and in the culture or environment of the place. These design patterns are like words that by themselves mean very little; but, when you combine words carefully, you can create a lot of meaning in a few words.

Likewise when you combine the right design patterns thoughtfully and precisely, you create what Alexander calls "dense space", space that is deeply comforting and nurturing to the human psyche, the Greek word for soul.

HomeTown is our newest community

HomeTown is a culturally sustainable community, and it is designed to be as ecologically sustainable as the market will accept.

HomeTown will have about 1100 homes in 8 distinct neighborhoods on 150 acres of former cornfield. It is in the City of Aurora about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago.

All homes are detached, except for some that are attached at the garage. The price range is $100,000 to $200,000. We opened our models one year ago, and HomeTown already has 110 sales. HomeTown is currently selling at an annualized rate of 150 homes per year. From a sales standpoint, HomeTown is one of the most successful communities in Chicagoland.

I'd like to show you the key components of HomeTown while I quickly describe it to you. HomeTown is a human-scaled and child paced community of clustered mini-neighborhoods in old fashioned, timeless authentic neighborhoods with modern lifestyle homes nestled along traffic calmed streets, private Living Lanes, and private Living Courts with an outdoor realm designed so children have freedom and range, and for their spiritual, cultural, social, emotional, and physical development.

In HomeTown children have a safe, free range across 140 acres including 8 Neighborhood parks, 3 public parks, ponds, wetlands, native prairie, the elementary school, a corner store, a town center, a church - etc.

A sustainable culture, like environmental sustainability, is a very complex issue and it would take a couple hours to just briefly cover all its facets in relation to HomeTown; so, because of the time constraints, I decided today to focus on a very small, but important part of it that I thought we all could identify with - a large free range area like many of us enjoyed as kids, but that suburban kids today don't even know they're missing. And we haven't even had time to show how this idea plays out for children of different ages in HomeTown.Slides

Just in case you're wondering if there's really any difference between a sustainable community and the typical subdivisions we've been building the last 50 years, I'd like to show you some.

The slides on your left are from our communities. The slides on your right are from new subdivisions in Schaumburg and Naperville - two of the most emulated (unfortunately) suburbs in Chicagoland.

Rainbow Street
People live Schaumburg Street
Cars live here
Easter Egg hunt
Living Court
Designed for kids
Fronts of houses
House Front
"Progress thru Planning"
The kids who live in the Living Court
Great for cars
Horrible for people
People live here not cars
Naperville -
State of the art
Suburban Planning
Kids reign
Cars reign
HT Living Lane
People live here
10 MPH
Gathering Place Naperville
Cars live here
45 MPH
HT human scale and pace A wanna be TND
Double livable porch
Dining area
Living area -Guy sitting on porch -
no room for a chair
Easy to participate in street life See guy in chair
Kind of fire engine streets should be designed for
Mixed up street
Alley left side
House fronts
Right side


In closing, I'd like to suggest; that sustainable communities can once again be the rule rather than the exception in the new millennium. That sustainable communities and environmental sustainability are inseparable and that together then are a bigger, better vision.

Finally, when talking about greater and better visions, I would be untrue to my own psyche and soul if I did not say that the desires of the human will to do good and be creative and exert positive power, which other animals simply don't have points to an even bigger, better vision that can only be grounded in the kingdom of God and can only be fulfilled by living in a loving, vital relationship with Jesus. In the last analysis it is this greater purpose that has driven me to create HomeTown.

There are handouts in the rear for those who have more interest. There's an article on HomeTown that describes it in more detail. There's a design bibliography listing the books that have had the greatest impact on the design of HomeTown. Finally there's a pamphlet about an even greater, better vision-the vision that drives me.

There is an afternoon tour scheduled for HomeTown on Friday. I will be explaining in detail what makes HomeTown work. I am told that as of 8:30 there were still places available on the tour. I hope to see you there.

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