A community system, specifically a complex adaptive system is comprised of a multitude of components and (inter)connections.
So a real community – as a complex adaptive system – requires the necessary critical mass of components and connections.
Actually, we could think in terms of the main ‘component’ sub-systems: physical infrastructural system; social system; and, the greater ecological/environmental system.
Scale and scope … of the subsystems and their components and connections. In fact, scale and scope of each of the ’scales’ and ’scopes’.
The ecological/environmental system: biodiversity … appropriate scale/scope of plants – amount, type and age (from saplings to mature trees; etc.). In terms of the physical features: private gardens, public manicured parks and natural space.
The ‘mix’ of parks to natural space, for instance, would vary according to the factors in each community … with a scale of ’scales’: for instance, tiny quiet gardens within the core of the community (even, just a ‘nook’ tucked out of the way), balanced with large sports fields or fairgrounds and natural spaces. And, a range of ’sizes’ in between. A large number of small spaces, balanced with a few large spaces.
The physical infrastructure system: human/pedestrian infrastructure – walk’ways’, cycle’ways’; courtyards, squares, plazas, etc. Children and youth fun facilities: playgrounds, skate ‘pools’, etc.
Emergency vehicle access ‘ways’. Automobile access and parking courts/garages.
Scale of ’scales’, again: as a general design principle, it may do well to strive for a large amount/number of ’small scale’ (human/pedestrian) infrastructure, balanced by a small amount/number of ‘large-scale’ automobile infrastructure.
The social system, is comprised of residents, as well as the commercial (merchant), industrial (creative, fabrication, etc.) and professional aspects which compose a local ‘economy’ … a localized ’socio-economic’ system.
Even within this economic sub-system, the various components – commercial, industrial and professional – must comprise a sufficient ‘amount’ and ‘variety’ for a healthy vibrant local economy.
It is not simply that these commercial/professional ‘players’ serve the residents. Rather, the residents and merchants/professionals/craftspersons are all ‘active players’; the residents ’serve’ the merchants by supporting their business, while the merchants ’serve’ all the people (residents, visitors, and fellow merchants) by providing the business. It is the mutually beneficial relationships that are self-reinforcing and work together to create a vibrant local economy.
This is what is meant by the ’self-referencing’ and ’self-referencial’ duality of complex self-organizing systems: all of the local people, residents and merchants/professionals develop their sense of identity/place from their interactions and relations, all the while, it is the totality of the interactions and relations of the people that imbue a sense of identity and place which they draw upon.
In my opinion, this is lacking in even the most ’successful’ arterial road commercial strips of our existing residential subdivisions. While there is some sense of identity/place, I believe it is shallow. Shallow, if for now other reason that the commercial vitality is dependent not merely on the local residents, but from a larger geographical scale: commercial catchment. This in itself isn’t bad, but when all such commercial ’strips’ are dependent on extra-resident catchment, then it presupposes mechanical transportation as essential.
Herein lies the crux of our existing problematic situations: it is the ‘lack’ of a real systemic Community – the lack of a commercial core and vibrant local economy.
Building residential (subdivision) developments based on mechanized transportation infrastructure – whether automobile or public transit – we become ‘locked-in’ to large commercial catchments and road congestion.
By relegating economic activity to arterial roadways – commercial ’strips’, we are left with a high asset-intensity; high-cost; high-impact (eco/enviro) built ‘form’ … that is limiting/restrictive of both mobility and socio-economic dynamics.
Conversely, a integrative Community design based on human-scale pedestrian infrastructure and a central commercial core promotes/supports a vibrant local economy … yet it preserves the freedom of mobility of residents (even, enhances/enables mobility abroad), by relieving road congestion.
We can design and build real communities … as complex systems.
Moreover, we can redevelop existing residential subdivisions into sustainable thriving communities: Urban Transformation.