It is difficult to imagine that anyone in his right mind would advance the theory that there is a direct connection between the organization of the built environment and criminal behavior, but that is exactly what this series proposes to do. However, to understand this relationship we must first of all understand the underlying mechanics of human settlement. There are, of course, dozens of disciplines involved in the study of human settlement, and we are not suggesting that we are in any way experts on the subject. We have, however, observed connections, many of which cross the dividing lines between the specialist disciplines, which make the study of human settlement and its relationship to human behavior even more compelling. This series will begin by asking questions about the purpose of establishing settlements. What is a town? What is a city? What in the end is a community? What, for that matter is a nation? It will explore how the built environment contributes to the establishment of civilization at these various levels. Finally, it will address criminal behavior as a direct result of the failure of the community to satisfy the needs of its members through attention to the built environment.
The study ground for these exercises, for the sake of ease, will be Nassau, Bahamas, a city presently reeling from the effects of criminal activity, but seemingly unconcerned about the importance of developing itself physically or of addressing the very purpose of human settlement – the satisfaction of a range of basic, psychological needs for human beings that share a common purpose.
City planners, urban designers, architects and other specialists in the built environment see their works as separate from the behavior that results from their work. Sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists and educators see their effort as independent of the organization of the built environment. Politicians and legislators see their efforts as gestures, designed to reinforce the idea of patronage, not as the delivery of nutrients for the social growth of their nation. As a result, for example, any child born after independence in the Bahamas has seen no focus on their history in their environment, no real celebration of their parent’s accomplishments and precious little sharing of cultural values beyond the entertainment of Junkanoo, primarily designed to impress outsiders. For this reason they have had no opportunity to be galvanized into a Nassauvian community, and so therefore most often see themselves as individuals, forced to survive alone against the world.
While there are several areas of community and identity building needed at this time, this series will address what must be by far the most neglected area of concern for the people that wish to call Nassau “home” – the planning of the built environment as support for community development. It is not important whether we are right or wrong. What is important is that there is a need for us to understand that the building of a nation requires more than rhetoric, and that the planning for that job is urgent.
October 15, 2014