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Sterilization by rules
When one examines the regulatory framework of French housing (urban planning regulations, transportation regulations, home-owners and renters associations,...), we see that many of the rules prohibit residents to use or modify the exterior of their homes. For example: no storage in public or in the public domain, no modifications of the exterior appearance of their home, no plants (or private gardening), no hanging clothes to dry, no furniture in full view of neighbors or passers-by, no playing except in authorized places, etc.. One can understand in each case the reason behind the rule or prohibition : to avoid conflicts with neighbors, or accidents. But the consequences of this regulatory framework are detrimental. The site is designed, managed and regulated so that nothing is going on and nothing changes, in short nothing happens. The residents are reduced to inaction. The habitat is frozen. It is sterilized. On residential streets we no longer see habitants, the streets are no longer alive.
Sterilization by road securitization
A logic of road security can be applied to street circulation. Which leads us to consider residential streets as major roads (multi lane thoroughfares, safety barriers, roundabouts, railings, minimal pedestrian crossings, minimal meetings, minimal mixtures, and minimal points of exchange with adjacent residents). In the name of security, processes specific to residential streets are blocked: the mixing or sharing of different modes of transportation (car, bicycle, pedestrian) and the interactions between people.
Sterilization by residential securitization
Another security logic can be applied to housing. Security is achieved through barriers, gates, door codes, guards, intercoms, CCTV, controlled entrances to parking lots, buffer zones. If a home is opened to the street, it is considered in danger. The secured community is closed in on itself and minimizes inputs and exchanges at the edges. In the name of security, it blocks another process specific to streets, interactions between the traffic and adjacent residents.
An underlying principle is behind these sterilizations : "cannot be trusted."
- Motorists, pedestrians or cyclists cannot be trusted. Road safety obliges the multiplication of devices to guide them, to separate them, to control their itineraries and to remove spontaneity.
- Residents cannot be trusted either, we should avoid all that is accidental or spontaneous.
But, more securitization produces more distrust. To restore real security requires restoring confidence. These two movements are antagonistic. Far from contributing to security, excessive securitization can lead to critical situations, and be counterproductive : the cure may be worse than the disease. Far from building an environment where we are safe, we are building a sterilized habitat, characterized by the absence of informal social life in the streets. The result : the streets are barren, uninhabited.
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