Social Sustainable Spaces

I really enjoyed Kevin McLeod’s conversation with Margaret Throsby earlier this week.

In addition to admiring his style in Grand Designs, I have been fascinated by his Grand Tour and his visit to Dharavi. (The Dharavi program led me to explore edgeless spaces.)

I was particularly interested to hear Kevin explore ideas about social spaces and listened carefully to his brief mention of Hab Oakus. I liked Hab Oakus’s manifesto which includes …

We will:

  • draw on landscape and history to create an architecture which is strongly rooted in context, both physical and cultural
  • create communities which will appeal to young and old alike; where people grow up, have a family and grow old
  • conceive our projects within the context of community-wide initiatives from sourcing local food to sustainable means of transport
  • make places which are a pleasure to live in and a joy to behold.

HAB is short for Happiness, Architecture, Beauty. This approach is another discovery for me on my interest in personal learning environments.

It has prompted me to think about how educational and sport contexts can embody the possibilities that:

We build houses that make people happy; that keep people warm in winter and cool in summer and generally comfortable and cheerful all year round. We work with brilliant architects and landscape architects to make places that look great and work well, and have lots of outdoor space for people to play, chat, lie in the sun, throw a good party, grow their own food.

Photo Credits

The Triangle, Swindon

Northway, Oxford

Seeing Clearly?


I love reading our daughter Beth’s blog posts about family and community issues.

I admire her growing political voice too.

She says in her About part of her blog:

I find it is through my interactions with others that I learn best and so hope that you might take some time to respond to my thoughts and so we can help each other along this journey of discovery that is living.

Today I found two items that I thought might interest Beth and contribute to a learning journey. They resonate with my interests in play too.

Item 1: Young Vision

A University of Sydney press release reports that researchers in the Centre for Vision research have found that “six-year-olds who spent the most time watching television had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes, increasing their chances of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes in later life.”

The press release notes:

  • The study looked at one and a half thousand six-to-seven-year-old children in 34 primary schools in Sydney. Those who regularly participated in outdoor physical activity had wider average retinal arterioles (arteries behind the eyes) compared to children with the lowest activity levels.
  • Physical activity enhances blood flow and has a positive effect on the linings of blood vessels. Retinal microvascular diameter is a marker for cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure in adults, but this is the first study to show a sedentary lifestyle in childhood is linked to a narrowing of the vessels in the retina.

Item 2: Mums

On my way to Canberra I heard the end of an interview between Margaret Throsby and Jessica Rowe. Jessica is the author of Love.Wisdom.Motherhood. The book’s themes have fundamental connections with Beth’s thoughts and actions and I was delighted to hear (if only for a very short time) Jessica’s thoughts about motherhood.


The juxtaposition of these two items and their links with Beth’s interests sent me off on a journey today. The journey reminded me too that when Bruno Bettelheim was asked at the end of his professional career ‘What would you do differently knowing what you know now?’ he answered “work much more closely with mums”.

I see playfulness at the heart of learning opportunities. The Sydney study on vision and Jessica’s sharing of eleven stories of motherhood have reinforced my commitment to activity and understanding the roles mums play in young flourishing.

I am off to discuss these ideas with Beth!

Photo Credits

Mother and Baby

Mother and Child

Groups and Deliberation

John Gastil was a guest on Margaret Throsby’s program today. I thought what he had to say was fascinating and followed up on his work:

  • The Jury and Democracy Project that aims to understand the impact that jury service has on citizens. (“Too often, people think of the jury as nothing more than a means of reaching verdicts. In fact, serving on a jury can change how citizens think of themselves and their society. Our purpose is to study those changes.”)
  • Deliberation (“Public talk needs to be democratic by giving each participant adequately speaking opportunities, ensuring participants can understand each other, and by giving each other due consideration and respect. Such talk needs to be deliberative in that it establishes a solid information base, prioritizes the key values at stake, identifies a broad range of solutions, looks carefully at the advantages, disadvantages, and tradeoffs among choices, and ultimately makes the best judgment.” Link)
  • The Group in Society (and the importance of co-presence, coherence, boundaries, communication, shared purpose and interdepedence).

I do think there are vital lessons in John Guptil’s work. Here in Australia we are learning enormous lessons about civic responsibility and personal resilience. The flourishing of voluntarism is remarkable in flood and cyclone-damaged areas.

I am hopeful that the lessons we are learning about collaboration in crises might extend to a deliberative and deliberating democracy. It would be remarkable if our political processes could acknowledge our sameness rather than invented difference. What an incredible society and culture we could have: empathetic, supportive and celebratory.

John Gastil has a message for our time. I am delighted I was able to spend an hour in his company.

Photo Credits

Partaha Village

Horsham Flood 2011