I’m in the market to buy a new house and I’m looking all over New York City and region to find the right combination of things that will protect my investment, yet the neighborhoods around where I live are very mixed, some are great and, expensive, and some not so nice but still pretty expensive relatively speaking. It’s hard to justify spending close to a million dollars on a run down structure that needs everything, in a neighborhood where you hope your security isn’t in doubt.
Well being the architect that I am I started wondering why the heck do some neighborhoods start to flourish and others don’t. Looking at the ‘bad’ neighborhoods I can easily see why. Torn up and deteriorated buildings, empty lots, scruffy sidewalks and the like. Because of the influence of some bad it has, over time, created a lot of bad. That is, when one building starts to fall, the immediate neighbors will more likely try to move away, sell cheap, to get out. That means their building will potentially ‘fall’ as well… add to the mix gas stations and repair shops, industrial buildings that are not maintained themselves and the snowball starts to roll in the wrong direction. And if you can’t sell you move anyway and rent the property all the while forgetting that buildings, especially old one’s need to be maintained every 20 years at a minimum.
Now take another neighborhood where someone starts to fix things, ok, not much happens, but then a second person starts to fix things up and what you eventually get is a snow ball heading in the positive direction.
My point is that what buildings present, good or bad, influence what happens to the neighboring structures and can impact a whole neighborhood.
From a developers point of view one has to find the neighborhood that has enough potential, that is beginning to turn the corner, before making their huge financial investment, so putting a full renovation or new building in a neighborhood that will not return from the dead is really just throwing that money away. If a developer is smart, they look for neighborhoods that have potential in order to protect their investment, which happens when more people join the rehabilitation of that particular hood.
So where’s the real wisdom in all of this? Is that it?
Nah. Here’s the wisdom: If you build a building and use really high quality bricks, you will have a strong building that will last forever (essentially). But if you put into all those really great bricks one, or a few bad bricks, that will crumble due to weight or water, then the other bricks will be affected and eventually crumble too, or at least show the signs of stress. The same goes for buildings that are built. They represent the bricks of a neighborhood. Add good bricks (buildings) and a whole neighborhood can build upon itself to improve. Add enough bad bricks and the neighborhood will crumble.
And here’s the kicker of the analogy: We humans get along pretty well, but if an individual is standing around enough ‘bad bricks’ you can expect them to crumble. We influence each other and the direction of that influence can have real implications for the type of world we live in.
My suggestion is always try to do your best, whether engaging with other people, or building buildings. We have the ability to change the world around us in a positive way, or we have the ability to act upon it in a negative way. For those who act upon it negatively, let them live in the consequences and hope that their influence stays away from the rest of us.