What makes a good community?

Reproduced from Karen Press's Closer Than This (an open source book for urban planners)

...and architects, too!

Test: would Vladimir and Estragon be willing to wait here?

Test: would a ball kicked along the road roll back backwards?

Test: would a bunch of flowers stay alive all the way home?

Test: would Charles Baudelaire walk these pavements?

Test: how long would a goldfish survive?

Test: would Frida Kahlo find enough colors?

Test: would carrots grow straight in the soil?

Test: would Nawal el Saadawi be able to relax?

Test: would a cellist be heard?

Test: would Elvis be happy here? would Fela?

Karen poses these questions under the auspices of new urban developments in Africa, but it is worth asking the same questions of existing communities and neighborhoods undergoing revitalization - both in Africa and elsewhere around the world!

Just thoughts to consider.


A poem of Bo-Kaap

From Gabeba Baderoon's Three Poems

I walk down Heerengracht,
where pigeons dip their necks
like question marks into the fountain.
Then left at Long, while the sun slips

Toward the sea and the moon takes its place
above Signal Hill.
Above me, starlings clatter
like typewriters.

Higher still, turning right at Wale,
seagulls tilt like white kites
against the wind.

I step on the old silences of the city.

Here is the place on the hill where artists came
for peace and the view of the harbour.
Below, the city reveals itself.
We still walk the neat streets of their paintings.

Under the angled mountain, its blue light,
the starlings are cold but, looking at them,
I see the loveliness
of their chaotic and coordinated hunger.

What can explain
this exact and unjust beauty?

The flock clusters at sunset for warmth and seed.
Poetry cannot be afraid of this.

Sketching the streets, the artists stood
on the burial ground of the city’s slaves.
In the paintings is something
of the private grief of their bodies.

In precise patterns the starlings follow one another
and redouble on their own flight-tracks,
slipstream of warmth,
blood-trace of the self.

Nothing to begin with,
and nothing again.

Around me, the air is thick with history.
Two hundred years ago,
slaves could no longer be sold.

Nothing, and nothing again.

I look again at the painted city, falling
silent at sunset, even the birds stilled.
In the last flash of the sun, the city gleams
white and hard as bone.