Matchaparty is doing a series of tea ceremonies around the Bay Area to raise awareness of homelessness.
OLD TOWN ROAD:
Vulnerability is the currency of the 21st Century Economy
Across California, small clusters of self fabricated homes rise from piles of trash in the small sliver of public land between highway, creek, railroad, and 19th century platting. Plastic sheets, wood, scraps of metal - defunct consumer goods - have been bricolaged as livable space. This is an old-town, continually inhabited for five thousand years; and this is the core of the new healthcare economy of risk and vulnerability.
Dig into the soil here and we find ancestors buried among the remains of houses and civic buildings rebuilt season after season; once of reeds, now of plastic tarps and salvaged packaging. The old town is an irrepressible vestige of civilization, continuing to survive despite constant repeated attempts at erasure.
Centuries of policies have criminalized life here, pushing people to either be willful workers, or committed wards: Franciscan missions, Indian Protection Act, Mexican Repatriation, Jim Crow, segregation; and most recently, gentrification design that sends waves of police to remove people over and over. Most here are elders, often with multiple co-morbidities and chronic diseases. People regularly go to the nearby hospital ER waiting room to catch a warm nights sleep, have an extra meal, or for acute treatments, surgeries, and medications; all costing thousands of dollars. The waiting room is a plaza, a sanctuary; the patients a gold mine.
In our anthropocene world, the people who are highest risk buoy a healthcare economy of risk prevention and treatment. When skies darken with smoke, it is people here who start coughing first. When sea levels rise and rivers overflow, it is people here whose small houses are washed away.
A single “frequent flyer,” living in the nearby self built old-town, can net hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in hospital fees. The chronic disease of this community is the buttress of healthcare, which stands at 18% of the US economy, and the largest employer in the US, surpassing manufacturing in 2017. $3.5 trillion comes from chronic disease treatment alone.
The old-town is the core of the American city; the bleeding heart of the economy; its very instability perversely maintaining a situation of extreme conditions, vulnerability, and dollar returns. As risk is further exacerbated, as inequalities intensify, the old town must also be the site of design considerations.
Potential behavioral change as treatment is already the driving element of design in spatial, architectural, and landscape design as well as the "UX" design of hundreds of "apps" and startup businesses. The designers who find a way to honor the old-town will be the ones to create a new urban design in which informality is at the core of the 21st century city.
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509 290 3456 Alan