Anthony Santora, santoraj@muohio.edu

We say that our cities are alive. Words like living, breathing, dying, evolving all illustrate the notions of vitality and life that have become associated with both city composition and living, and encapsulate the single-mindedness of community.

But how is this community created? Is it the simple cohesion and action of survival principles, or do its origins lie somewhere deeper?

Christopher Alexander underscores the relationship of patterns and their inherent construction of all things. Alexander describes life as patterns that are generated by human activities, nature and time.

Out of these patterns, hierarchy begins to become established upon different scales, always working in conjuncture with one another to further the next.

What emerges is a crystallization of community.

Masked within the hierarchical construction of patterns the underlying utilization of need exposes this communal quality. This need becomes associated as an embodiment of identity, and stands as a matter of interaction with community and environment. Thus communities which become centered on a common identity (religious, athletic, etc.), determine need and respond through construction. In this way, identity becomes grounded in place.

Place is a central component of life and can be described as a connection that exists between a person and their environment dependent on the personalization of meaning; a description of being within space.

Place is the external form of being. Place carries our deepest meanings, feelings and thoughts and turns them into physical forms.

For us the building of our place begins with the internal orientation of ourselves within the world. Signs and symbols become the physicality of being, and we are able to translate these signs and symbols into meaningful space through the use of perception.

Perception is composed of internal constructs and utilizes the external abilities of the body. These abilities are translated into the haptic senses; those senses that deal with the strict physicalities of space. These senses allow a greater depth of connectivity and interaction between our surrounding environment and us. Two predominant senses emerge: sight and touch.

Sight allows the individual to experience and interact with a wide range of elements allowing for a greater context of orientation within spaces.

Conversely touch reduces the breadth of the scope into a more personal relationship with individual elements. This allows us to ground ourselves by directly establishing a physical connection between the elements and ourselves.

The act of physical placement denotes the shift from internalization to externalization. Methods and techniques of placement begin to form a hierarchical construct that unifies the order of meaning within the space. It is within this unification that community begins to emerge.

This becomes evident as we examine the act of living. A person perceives the environment around them, which is already shown in the way they construct place in terms of the environmental factors around them. Often, those environmental factors are of human construction. Thus the need to orient, define meaning and interact is still present only these now respond to the external inclusion of those that surround us.

It is within this inclusion that we begin to take into account the meaning and significance appropriated by another person. Our actions then encompass both the meaning of ourselves and the meaning of those that surround us.

This is evident in the ways in which we both move and function within the community, as the establishment of hierarchical listing of professions and ideologies establishes the context for interaction.

The identification of singular placement within the communal context allows for both our own individual living and community survival.

Important to the emergence of community is the concept of time. The idea of time is a constant established as a determinate of community emergence.

Time, often seen as a constant flow, can instead be seen as a layering of the patterns generated through living, a layering of life.

As time passes, the layering of our places becomes more complex and intricate, with each new layer lending itself to an emergence of the next.

Only after a set number of layers occur can community generate, and then it grows as each new layer builds.

We started by asking how community is created; if it is simple or complex. The answer is that it is both; it is simply complex.

Perhaps too complex to ever fully understand, but by trying to offer some insight we can actively think and construct ourselves in a better manner.

This will lead to the construction of a better community, a community driven by the underlying nature of living, connectivity and interaction.

Community is created, sustained and grows as time layers itself over and over again.

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