Our Urban statement

 

Urbanism is the pursuit of better--more productive, livable and sustainable--cities through research, design and activism. We believe that the transformation of church buildings into community hubs will have a significant impact on our urban landscape.

We want to make a significant contribution to global urbanism and the multifaceted surge of interest and investment in cities as places that support  thriving community, creativity and invention, and leadership on social and environmental justice.

Our objective is to extend and expand the legacy of historic urban church buildings. These places were built by and for neighbourhood communities whose original aim was to provide refuge, strengthen social ties (including economic networks), encourage personal growth, and beautifully embody a spiritual and cultural presence in the context of the larger city. According to the majority of highly regarded urban thinkers today, these aims are at least as relevant now as they were when these buildings were built.  Despite a wide spectrum of effectiveness over time of the original owners/tenants, the needs and concerns of the surrounding communities are even greater today than when the buildings were first built. This is due to urbanization: cities increasing in size, density and influence*, and the higher proportion* of our population who reside within them. Never before in history have cities exerted so much pull and power, promised so much and been faced with so many challenges.

TCF draws on the thinking of a diverse group of  highly regarded urbanists, sociologists, community activists, educators, systems thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators to create a new framework for socio-cultural growth in the city.

 

Key Urbanistic Principles

A Systems Thinking (approach and perspective) will be critical to integrate the multiple systems, contexts, needs, stakeholders, data and emergent properties (outcomes) of the TCF system within cities. (Key systems: 1.’market’, 2. ‘regulation’, 3. ‘culture’ and 4. ‘technique /technology’

 

Physical place matters

In a world that is increasingly digital and virtual, it is more important than ever for people to have opportunities to be physically present around shared participatory activities and interests. As urban sociologist Richard Florida points out in Rise of the Creative Class, despite the advent and proliferation of new virtual communication technologies, physical space is still the most powerful catalyst for culture making, collaboration and thus innovation.

Alternatives to mainstream activities (private sector or government) are crucial

Henry Mintzberg in Rebalancing Society, calls this the “plural sector” and points out the present importance of this alternative sector  in contemporary urban life encompassing for example: Scout groups, churches, clubs, nonprofit organizations, associations, hands-on education, camps, and incubators. As market systems and regulatory bureaucracies expand in an ongoing arms race, finding places outside of these systems will become increasingly important for citizens of all ages, and especially for teenagers [citation].

Personal social networks matter

Social equity is difficult to achieve without the robust personal networks that are characterized by knowing people, relationships which are usually best supported by substantial face to face time. We provide space, frameworks and programming (both passive and active) for this to occur. See Robert D. Putnam; Bowling alone; Michael Crawford; Shop Class as Soulcraft. and Richard Sennett refers to in The Craftsman

Beauty and diversity matter

The combination of built and natural environments that cities embody (many cities are technically considered forests!) must aspire to beauty in order to thrive. But it is the concert of diverse voices from different historical periods and perspectives that co-create this beauty. G.K. Chesterton calls tradition “the democracy of the dead” in reference to the co-creation (of cities) across time.

‘Adaptive Reuse’ of infrastructure can reduce embodied energy, demonstrate robust sustainability and create new opportunities for innovation

Buildings should not be torn down if they can be effectively repurposed, or when they have other long term value. TCF is a systems approach to revitalizing or reinventing the program and the physical structure of the buildings. We consider buildings not as static wholes, but rather what Stuart Brand, in How Buildings Learn, calls “shearing layers”: including structure, skin, services, space plan and stuff” - each moving at a different rate in time. This frees us to think of adaptive re-use as a continuous process rather than a single phase shift.

Tradition and history are the building blocks of future innovation

However disruptive (or incremental) our innovation, we begin with what has been passed on to us by history and our ancestors. The not-so-secret sauce for healthy urbanism is to conserve parts of the past so as to enrich the present and the future. When made visible and accessible (not museum pieces) this “urban fabric” (Colin Rowe, Collage City) makes a beautiful diverse, resilient city. TCF makes this conservation principle a living breathing part of the neighborhood.

Jane Jacobs in Death and Life of Great American Cities highlights “The need for old buildings” which traditionally offer space to slightly marginalized groups. The lower cost, more flexible, less rigid space makes it possible for artists and creatives who have important ideas for culture building to live in urban centers, even without substantial capital or mainstream support. TCF converted urban  buildings can provided space and support for creatives to help continue to shape society from within.