Encounters of the Hyper-Urban Kind: Culture/ Architecture can resist Pandemics -- or succumb to them

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"To look at the plan of a great City is to look at something like the cross-section of a fibrous tumor,"    Frank Lloyd Wright, 1945

Cramming things together may be efficient if you want to package sardines, but living in a high-density urban environment is showing to be definitely hazardous to your health of late.

At the time of this writing, the spreading virus has claimed 13,000 lives in the United States and the testing shows the highest concentration of infection in New York City and New Jersey. This metropolitan area of 23 million in fact is registering 30- 40% of all cases testing positive in the 50 states. How is this possible?

The way most viruses infect is through contact -- human contact through the air, by touch, from surfaces. Physicians have prescribed how to mitigate contracting the virus through ‘social distancing’ and a variety of other safety measures. As the Covid-19 pandemic spread throughout Europe and the United States, several questions about culture were first raised. We heard about how males were twice as susceptible, and the infirm with previous high-risk conditions. Like others, I wondered about how illness is linked to culture, to smoking and eating habits, to age, exercise, pollution, to underlying disease.

My mother was from Greece and we lived in Turkey through high school. (food and merchant bazaar at right) We had an apartment in a 13-story concrete condo-style building on a busy thoroughfare in Izmir Turkey. The windows were left open all day and one could smell the bakery down the road, the vendors selling their wares, the horse and buggies, and the smell of low-quality diesel that would hang in the air after a roaring truck came by. We had no air conditioning for many years. Dust and residue of the city and odors blew through the house. We also heard the Imam praying 5 times a day, bells ringing, cars on their horns, the clip-clop of horses, vendors wailing, ethnic and western music at night, and conversations around the neighborhood. As I child, I was fascinated and had nothing to compare to. Like most Turks and anyone else living there, we were healthy and happy. (Modern pedestrian alley, Karsiyaka Izmir, below)

No one got sick it seemed. Produce was brought in daily from surrounding farms and meats slaughtered and hung for inspection and purchase. I would go to the bakery and see others squeeze the freshly baked loaves to test for freshness. There were no plastic wraps. We were told not to buy anything from street vendors, although that rule was broken. We pretty much ate everything available, from sour yogurts to fruity ice cream, sesame bagels, and lemonade poured by vendors into glasses flushed out by a quick rinse to be reused immediately. Our constitutions were fortified against nearly any contagion it seemed. This was 1962 to ’72.

We carried foodstuffs daily in string bags, rarely washing them I recall. Drinking water was brought in large bottles as the tap water was to be used for washing and cleaning only. Mom put all fruits and vegetables into a soapy tub to make sure. But this lifestyle is very similar to that in most urban areas in the United States and Europe, in fact around the world, through the 1920s and 30s and many continue to this day. (below: Izmir waterfront quay, 1906).

The culture of Greece and Turkey, in fact in most southern European countries and those bordering the Mediterranean, involves close face to face communications and much physical contact. People walk arm in arm, kiss on the cheeks before and after meeting each other, etc. The bazaars and outdoors are very busy at certain times during the workweek and on the weekends while people are constantly bumping into each other. Society interacts at ‘close quarters’ is the best way to put it. And there is a rather loose attitude towards strictly ‘proper’ hygiene. The inhabitants are quite fortified against flus, viruses, etc. due to, I imagine, a continued lax attitude and so everyone slowly builds up a resistance to infections of any kind. Again, I don’t remember being very ill at all during those 10 glorious years. Immigrants from Europe brought the same customs to this country over many years, while establishing strong pockets of ethnic communities.

Now, we examine the current calamity and ask: how is such widespread infection possible? As of this writing, Turkey has 725 deaths out of a population of 83 million. That is a much better statistic than most of Europe right now. Greece has 10.4 million with 83 0deaths. Still, very, very good. But these numbers are changing as the COVID virus rate of infection is constantly changing day to day.

The Black Death of 1347-51 killed 75 to 200 million in Europe and Asia. It is believed the source was eastern Asia, the bubonic plague being carried through the Silk Road and reaching the Crimean ports by 1343. It was likely carried by fleas living on rats aboard Genoese ships and spread through Europe from the Italian peninsula. The term ‘quarantine’ is Latin for 40 days, the length of time these infected merchant ships were forbidden to unload anything or anyone. Fast forward to 2019-20 and we see something very similar: an Asian source of a virus but this time carried by unwitting(?) travelers throughout the entire planet quickly via airplanes for business and pleasure.

Technology brought this virus to the unsuspecting at a rate that may have been beneficial even, as the pandemic seems to affect everyone within a compressed period of time and we can only judge day to day if moves the medical advisory group to the administration and the public sector companies will develop a medical solution in time to quell the catastrophe. Since a simple handshake or close hug apparently transmits COVID-19, one cannot argue lack of sanitation or poverty as the chief causes of the current pandemic compared to the Black Death which included reasons of unsanitary water, open sewage, etc. The customs I mentioned while living overseas are ethnic ways that are carried here into the United States from migrants of every nationality. Cultural norms are one route of infection. We see now that social distancing is the only way to keep contagion inert.

Quarantine was the chief method of stopping the European plague. Those who were uninfected remained in their homes, while others fled the densely populated cities and lived in smaller quarters in the countryside. A similar flight to safety has been seen and stopped in order to contain the current pandemic. Isolation has been recommended by the medical profession. Looking at the current numbers for infection and morbidity, it appears that the most densely populated cities are showing the highest rates, at least in the United States. If you look at the continually updated chart from John Hopkins -- you can see that less densely populated areas have smaller rates of infection and death. One can also observe that a larger metro area like LA with reduced density also shows a dramatically lower, manageable rate, which is the main point here. Obviously, the more dispersed a population is, the less likely a contagion will decimate it. Which brings up the question of cities/ megacities, versus rural and suburban living.

Mulberry Street, New York City ca. 1900, above

The hot spot in the country as of this writing is the New York/New Jersey area, posting the most infections and total deaths. The trend is to see dense urban areas experiencing the most damage while rural areas the least. In contrast, the LA metro area is posting less than ¼ of the cases and morbidity per capita than the northeast’s large dense metro areas. Density of population means closer contact person to person. It means repeated contact with hundreds or thousands of other people sharing sidewalks, streets, cabs, subways, elevators, handling door hardware on multiple venues, toilets, etc. This has architecture and planning implications that must be examined.

Before all the technical ‘innovations’ of the modern world, the ancient world, in general, was built of mud, brick and stone that limited the heights of buildings. There were thousands of years of 2 to 5 story private and public buildings and the majority of the population lived outside of the city gates in the surrounding farmland. But as work paid more in the city, a migration of the poor and less skilled into tight urban quarters ensued. Plagues and pestilence commonly started in the city central due to poor drainage, open sewers, overcrowding, unpaved streets with animals wandering around, dirty drinking water, etc. Modern metro areas have overcome nearly all the problems associated with crowded living and working conditions of the pre-industrialized world – as far as advancing sanitation goes.

The influx of Modernist building theory and technology in the ‘40s included the opportunity to build higher with glass, concrete and steel with the consequence of dumping thousands of inhabitants of offices and condos on the streets of cities like Chicago and New York which had not been designed for that volume. While not considered a hazard at the time, this meant hundreds of thousands of people packed on narrow sidewalks, in the subways, stairwells, and pushing into lobbies to board elevators in the high rises. While this type of construction and urban design drove up prices of real estate, made millionaires out of developers, and hypnotized architects and planners, it was also deemed ‘good’ by social scientists who approved much of what was being built.

One of the preeminent architects of the time, Le Corbusier, introduced his visions of grandeur with a scheme for Paris which would have leveled undesirable areas in order to build large scale apartment and office blocks separated by a busy transit corridor. ‘Ville Radieuse’, the Radiant City (above), has been eerily mirrored in Dubai’s planning (left). Corbusier also had a solution to pack the less fortunate into large crates, which became a model for huge public works projects in the U.S. like Pruitt Igoe. In other parts of the world, this Universal Style for housing the masses was repeated endlessly in urban areas, like these modern housing blocks in Zagreb (below) and other developing third world housing clusters. In contrasting the present pandemic in our urban areas, the population of Dubai does not flood narrow streets with thousands as in New York or Chicago, nor does it move about on subways but rather drives everywhere in air-conditioned vehicles.

Person to person contact is limited to underground garages to lobbies and elevators to offices and condos while the traditional eateries and shopping areas are several blocks behind the showy boulevards in less dense areas. (Below: Pruitt Igoe, before it was demolished)


In the early 60s another visionary European architect, Paolo Soleri, offered up high density, self-contained urban environments, sparing the pristine earth below for recreation (and a green zone on grade to obviously escape the oppressive living areas above!) These ideas were based partly to the reaction of ‘save the planet’ tropes of the times… but give an architect a pencil and he/she will re-envision the entire manner of living/building and society itself. Frank Lloyd Wright, not to be left out, revealed his ‘Mile High City’ in 1957 which also combined work, house, and entertainment/recreation. (Soleri conception, below: Arcology – Architecture and Ecology)

Where do working urbanites spend most of their time? The interiors of modern office skyscrapers are characterized by a ring of individual offices at the perimeter leaving a core of windowless partitions that gave way to the ‘open plan’ -- an innovation borrowed from 50s office culture in Germany -- as a better solution to a warren of small windowless central offices. Frank Lloyd Wright was magnanimous in the quality of workspace he afforded the staffs of the Larkin and Johnson Wax office buildings. The open plans had high ceilings, ventilation and light.

A more contemporary scene below puts open plan workstations near the window wall but notice the distance between seating is barely 7 feet. A full day of work in this environment will expose anyone to airborne viruses and flus, etc.

The ventilation of modern office buildings needs to be fortified/recalibrated to ward off epidemics if the work floor area density remains. The typical floor to ceiling is 9 feet and conditioned air should be better filtered with higher rates of fresh air intake. But this will probably not be sufficient to ward off infection through close proximity as the open plan will continue with cubicles packed tightly together and people passing each other in narrow corridors. Recent studies show that more humidity in indoor air wards off the growth of viruses. (Wright’s Larkin atrium below)

There is really no ‘cure’ either, by physical design, to fend off person to person transmission in stadiums for large sports or music/stage events, museums, music theaters and film venues, and places of worship. In times of contagion these structures must be completely closed to prevent infection through close quarters. But the planning of large metro areas with dense high rise apartment and offices means that those occupants must travel up and down in tight elevators, lobbies, and then disperse below on the shoulder to shoulder sidewalks and likewise into the subway, bus and tram systems. In the worst-case scenario, these interactions become deadly when the atmosphere is virulent. (Johnson Wax atrium workspace, below)



The social scientists and behavioral types have been endorsing ‘community’ in dense living environments as opposed to suburban living for many years now. It is considered better on all counts and from an economical point of view, no doubt saves a lot of money on infrastructure. The American subdivision has been vilified for years due to its many faults. Low-density housing especially has been reviled by planners constantly. The strip mall, office park, and automobile-centered lifestyle has led to all types of social disorder, they claim. The interior layouts of regional or suburban shopping malls were restyled, in fact, to mimic the close-quarter Old World Euro-style irregular outdoor street shopping experience that Americans so desperately needed to survive and help maintain social order, human contact and supposed sanity. (see below)

It is obvious that no matter how strong the argument favors high-density living, those in the suburban and rural areas interact the least, touch the fewest contaminated surfaces daily, and are best situated to ride out an epidemic. Those who are left now amidst the highest death tolls in the large metro areas (after this virus is vanquished temporarily presumably through medical treatment) will be thinking about moving away from their hazardous but socially invigorating environments and looking at low-density housing as the clear alternative. Or moving to suburban, rural or remote areas and simply telecommuting. A new habit takes 21 days to 2 months to form. If we have rolling pandemics, as in Europe after the first Plague, working out of one’s home may accelerate, virtual meetings replace face to face contact, and potentially leave thousands of apartments and condos empty in the large metro areas following a 'flight to safety."

There have been many living arrangements proposed through the centuries that blend healthful living with a working environment integral to housing or located nearby. One can start in Renaissance Italy with the Ideal City, incorporating notions of moral, spiritual and legal qualities of citizenship and go from Enlightenment concepts of science, geometry and harmony to late 19th Century Garden Cities of England to finally the New Urbanism of the last twenty or thirty years. (Renaissance conception, right and below)

In each case, the scale and densities of these historic plans are far less than any of the modern congested urban metro areas that have developed to date. Remarkably, few if any high rises are introduced in the newer schemes, most have two or four-story buildings, and the majority show houses on individual plots or arranged to include low-density multifamily living.

In 1935 Frank Lloyd Wright proposed Broadacre City (above), a democratically organized utopia of individually owned plots of land and houses on a grid connected by motor highways and private helicopters. The remarkable aspect about this idea was the fact that Wright saw this possible due to three factors: the private automobile offering complete independence, interconnectivity with the traditional workplace via the telephone, radio and telegraph, and succeeding scientific technical breakthroughs. Each house was intended to be self-sufficient with enough arable land attached. The concept was a highly decentralized association of individuals and businesses working together in an ideal environment. He foresaw the American suburban model to come which unfortunately did not allow self-sustenance on small plots but nearly wall to wall construction. This 'waste' of land (in the setbacks) has especially roiled the planning intelligentsia.

Wright thought that technological advance at the time allowed telecommuting to anywhere and that a hyperdense urban center was unnecessary, ugly and unhealthy even. This is an uncanny solution to the current temporary workforce displacement from office to home in time of pandemic. Another model for low-density living is England’s planned new town Poundbury (below), now in its 27th year. This charming agglomeration of city center surrounded by two and three-story private residences and other office and small factory buildings and services intermingled with open squares allows community to flourish without overcrowding. The estimated final population is 6,000 in 2025 with 180 businesses currently operating and employing all residents. It is carbon neutral with no zoning and totally sustainable.

The question remains: will the outcome of the current pandemic, which so clearly has multiplied in the high-density metro areas, force planners, social scientists, and politicians to concede that the suburbs and automobile centered low-density environments are much better insulated against future pandemics? Will we live in the fear of succeeding epidemiological disasters without making any changes? Note that decentralized living means also a higher level of survivability for a nation under conventional or limited nuclear warfare. Will new designs inspired by Broadacre City or Poundbury be proposed? Or will the fear of pestilence recede with immunization, and pandemic relegated to an unavoidable but acceptable 100-year cycle?

After this terrible disease takes its course and blows through, there will undoubtedly be thousands who will abandon the crowded atmosphere of the dense urban centers and flee to the suburbs or the countryside in order to avoid not only the fear of pestilence but hope to be able to live and work in an economic environment that is not completely shut off as is now. 


please also see my followup here: https://activerain.com/blogsview/5487426/the-way-we-were--passover--and-other-striking-similarities

Comments (33)

John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi, Anna Banana Kruchten Broker, CRB, CRS   You are right about the many parallels here.  In fact, even Italy was initially hit the worse, like those boats that were quarantined.  In the history of the plague in Europe, it kept coming back and I hope this will not happen again.  Of course, they did not have vaccines and hopefully, we can beat this forever.  Thanks

Hi Tammy Lankford,  Very good point.  In fact, the problem in Italy was exacerbated by the same activity: younger people who worked in the big cities would commute back to their smaller communities and spread the virus!  Thank you

Hello Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR   Turkey is a wonderful country rich in history, architecture, food and people!!  I am glad that your Gene came back with great stories about this fabled land.  Did you know the Hittites were based in Asia Minor over two thousand years ago?

Hi Kathy Streib   Thanks for reading this!  I too have lived in Houston and I think, like LA, the area is car-centric and the chance of a virus spreading through such a spread out area is not as likely as in the case of NYC, where hundreds of thousands also live there.

Realty Pack   Glad you liked this.  I just combined some of my experiences with some schooling and a bit of research.  We were fed the info on Corbusier, Soleri,  Wright, and many others.  I think Corbu and Soleri indicated that more density is better and at the time we were all drinking the kool-aid.  The question is: when is enough density enough?  Planners loved it all and architects idolized these people.  Planners have slammed subdivisions for some relatively good reasons but they cannot argue against the fact that being spread out is the best way to avoid getting infected with just about anything.


Apr 10, 2020 05:18 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

James Dray   Yes, James, I thought I should retitle this as "The Longest Blog on AR"...  If you take the photos out, and reduce the font size, it ain't too bad.  But the pictures tell a story and I threw in a lot of stuff here to make a point.  There are holes, no doubt!  Thanks for slogging through this!

Hello Debbie Gartner   As this ordeal progresses, we are learning quite a few interesting facts and you just mentioned a recent one: the virus in NYC probably first came over from Italy.  Interesting that DNA can be traced like that!  Let's see what else comes out...  No doubt the surrounding areas where many commute in and out of NYC were infected as well.

Apr 10, 2020 05:20 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

What a fascinating read! Not just about the different types of communities but I loved your glimpse into life in Turkey. I could picture everything!

I do think millions of people living and working in enclosed spaces contributes to the spread of diseases/illlnesses. Here's the math of it....  In my entire state (MT), we currently have 354 confirmed C-19 cases. That's on a base of 1M residents. So if you assume 354 confirmed cases per 1M residents, in NY state, that would equate to about 6700 confirmed cases (354*19M) and in NYC that would be about 3000 confirmed cases (354*8.4M). In fact, though, at the moment there are 162,000 confirmed cases in the state and 87,000 in NYC. If I did the math correctly, there is something to be said about rural living providing many benefits in terms of illness.

Apr 10, 2020 05:42 AM
Sharon Miller
RE/MAX Platinum - Crane Hill, AL


Great read, I enjoyed learning about your earlier years and the detail you provided. As I read, I felt reinforced that my decision-making was correct in that I have spent my entire life, minus a few years, living in rural environments. Everything has tradeoffs, but keeping one's distance from those aspects of life which an individual chooses to ignore, can separate those enjoying life to the fullest versus attempting to survive living  "in a rut". Selling second/vacation homes on a beautiful pristine lake, I come in contact daily, with individuals/couples who yearn for the opportunity to secure a more sanguine evironment. The amount of excitement and dreams these people from suburbia display, makes my daily efforts and dedication to assist others worthwhile!    

Apr 10, 2020 07:38 AM
Andrea Bedard
Thompson Company, REALTORS® 240.593.2860 - Silver Spring, MD
Fluent in Real Estate & German, M.A. ABR ASP CIPS

I so appreciate you sharing with all of us John! I grew up on the 9th floor of a "modern" high-rise - the famous East German modular many of which have been torn down since the wall came down. I remember the crowded elevators, unimaginable how many fingers pressed those buttons on a daily basis, or pushed down the handle on the 2 main entrance doors. Yet, we were rarely sick back then - but also heavily vaccinated. As frightening as the situation is at the moment and as heart-breaking as some of the stories are, it is also all very fascinating. I find myself diving in deeper - not the sensationalism - but the educational, such as your post. Thank you! 

Apr 10, 2020 07:59 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi Kat Palmiotti   You are totally correct about your calculations.  It is simply obvious that living rurally or even in suburbs with low density work centers nearby means that infection does not proliferate at the same rate as highly dense urban centers.  I suppose it took a pandemic to make this clear.  There are pros and cons about both sides of this issue and I have been waiting to hear someone bring this to light.  Thank you!

Hello Sharon Miller   It really is nice being surrounded by nature more than the marks of 'civilization'.  I think it is possible to live in closer quarters but I am not sure we have the best models available for that.  The cleaned-up Medieval town of toda is very interesting but it was clearly an area where disease could take hold a thousand years ago.  Savannah is marvelous and a model city I think! Thank you for your ideas and experience.

Apr 10, 2020 08:15 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Thank you, Andrea Bedard   I think I share your experience as well.  While we did have vaccinations, we had also fresh seasonal produce markets, fresh cuts of meat, fresh milk, etc. available and also a more pedestrian lifestyle than today.  I have seen a walking culture in Germany, especially after the workday is over.  And you see a more healthful lifestyle in 'Old World' cities. There are original colonial towns here in the U.S. that are equally delightful and pedestrian centered.  Please also see this article I wrote about the Mediterranean Diet

Apr 10, 2020 08:21 AM
Andrea Bedard

Walking culture.. yes, that is so true! Although I still walk here all the time, it is a very different walking. When in Germany you walk to get to where you need to go and for leisurely/physical activity. Back in college my main modes of transportation where my legs and my bike. I still walk and run and hike here, but it's for mind, body, and soul not because I have to to reach a destination. 

I've also been a vegetarian/pescetarian since the mid-90s! I'll be sure to read your Med Diet article shortly. 

Apr 10, 2020 08:42 AM
Adam Feinberg
Elegran - Manhattan, NY
NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse specialist

I grew up in the suburbs of NYC. Many of those years in a house with about an acre of land. It was a pretty setting and a great place to grow up- but not one that I had any interest in as an adult. I lived in Manhattan as a student at NYU and have lived permanently in the city most of my years since graduating.  I live in a small 6 story, 12 unit condo with 3 apartments that were vacant prior to the shutdown (that are still vacant) and a large backyard that no one uses.


I have no intention of leaving the city- pandemic or not. While most of the wealthy have fled to one of their other homes outside of the city. The early feedback I have gotten is that all will be coming back. My poll is rather informal as well as unscientific- not to mention rather early in the crisis.

I have clients still interested in buying in Manhattan- some eager to move forward as soon as we can show apartments on a wider scale. I believe the pandemic will change a lot of people's behaviors, actions and needs, but it's too soon to tell how it will play out. One opinion I feel strongly about - I think many buyers are going to seek larger apartments.

Apr 10, 2020 10:13 AM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

I'm in the same camp as Sharon Miller . Less people pandemic or not. My little Maine town below as snow, 12-18 inches before it stops later today, starts "spitting". Everyone doing their part to #shelterinplace #alonetogether #wfh as Market Square demonstrates at 6PM last evening. Stay inside, be healthy, keep blogging from your home town location John Henry, Florida Architect .

houlton maine market square


Apr 10, 2020 10:13 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

John Henry, Florida Architect - with the exception of "sour yogurts to fruity ice cream," growing up Chicago style was very similar. Your lucid and witty way with words transcends into mental recall of coughing, runny noses, stuffy noses... I still don't know which is worse. But I do know when the use of tobacco smoke stopped so did my children's asthma. Plus, I experienced cost savings because of the elimination of having to purchase massive amount of Kleenex and Lysol that I constantly had to have on hand. Over the years, here in Flower Mound, I have been deeply concerned about all the apartment buildings that didn't exist when I moved here in 1997. Construction began in more recent years. And now the luxury condos in Flower Mound stick out like sore thumbs... nobody is buying. Not yet that is. You raise many good points and citing historical examples punctuated a new humanistic perspective spun out of past and stupid mistakes. I just read yesterday, or was it early this morning... days are running together, just like the old runny nose, that hand shaking will become socially unacceptable. Consciousness is definitely being raised and depending on who you talk to, consciousness is rising higher than the tallest high rises on earth.  

Apr 10, 2020 10:33 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi Adam Feinberg   Yes, too early to tell what will happen after the dust settles but my guess is that most people will return to city life.  When they do, however, I think that social distancing and hygiene practice will be fully in mind.  I am predicting a flight out of the most dense urban centers by those who can telecommute, but let's see what happens!

Hello Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573   Your town looks great!  I imagine the virus numbers are pretty low there unless you are getting urbanites moving back into the area in vacation homes, or those who commute.  The question right now is: should decentralized people areas be allowed to 'open up' or is it too early? Thanks

Hello Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP   I think that having a smoker in the family creates all sorts of respiratory issues and would be susceptible to weakening in a virus attack.  Did you enjoy living in Chicago?  In the olden days, hundreds of years ago, no one had a clue why people got so sick and what to do exactly to avoid epidemics.  There were anecdotal remedies, primarily to move into the countryside.  Now your countryside is filled with higher density living quarters and this can be a blight for health or just aesthetics.  Some of these projects can be made to look and operate nicely though.  We have had a spate of 10 and 12 story apartment/condo projects built in our small town over the last 5 years but the residential suburban streets are well set away.  Our town of Maitland has about 20 cases of Covid but since there is so little testing my guess there are about 100 here.  Interestingly, I just heard that California had an unusual run of flu cases in November and December.  Until we can DNA those affected to develop a timeline, it may be that most of this country was exposed last year!!


Apr 10, 2020 11:03 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

John Henry, Florida Architect -You're as good as it gets here on ActiveRain to the Britannica Encyclopedia. Yes! I really enjoyed growing up in Chicago up until 8th grade when we had the first Puerto Rican Riots - it was a tragic story that began on my graduation day in my neighborhood. I was walking home from the Church in my cap and gown (heels too) when all hell let out. After that, came the Civil Rights movement. I wrote about the historical events that shaped my life which occurred during my childhood. Several years ago,  a NY Editor read my work (unfinished) and told me to keep going. She was very interested. But life took on many different turns and I did not follow up with her. Last year, another editor read my work and hated everything I wrote. I came to conclusion, I wasn't going to let him give me reason to quit. After all, he was so young, he didn't even exist during the time frame I referenced, nor did he ever live in Chicago. Since then, I revised most of what I wrote and so far I'm up to 10,696 words with 61,865 characters. My work, and the research I did begins in 1830 and has been well documented by historians. I haven't finished; however, it will probably only end up in the possession of my kids. Something I noticed about Chicago was State Street, one of the busiest shopping centers in Chicago (before malls) always had people walking the streets, men in black or brown pants, long sleeve white shirts, ties, hats, and women in dresses, wearing jewelry, high heels, and little girls in fine dresses. Everyday in Downtown Chicago looked like a crowded day on Easter since before I was born! I have been to Sarasota and surrounding cities, plus the Atlantic side in Melbourne, FL before 2006 but no where else. I'm not familiar with Maitland. We have had 20 confirmed cases of Covid but no deaths yet. Dallas - horrible situation. I live in North Dallas and the virus is spreading rapidly. However, as you say, testing is limited or not available yet. Nor are the masks or gloves where I live either. Your news about CA is quite interesting! It seems as if minute by minute the pages of history are being written, edited, and added with new material.  

Apr 10, 2020 11:44 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Mixed use is what transformed Flower Mound. I don't like the apartments and about 3/4 remain unoccupied. Living here, I never encountered anyone smoking. Chicago was another story. No one in my immediate family smoked or any relatives. It wasn't until I started working in Downtown that I noticed difficult breathing, coughing, and stuffy runny noses was becoming the new normal. After I started College (long after HS) study halls allowed smoking. It was horrible! One of my favorite classes was Geology. I learned about the pollution that got dumped into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, the impact of leaky underground storage tanks, brown fields, etc. Those stories were heart wrenching, especially since pharmaceuticals were the chief culprits/offenders. It is amazing so many people adapted to the toxins and chemicals. Sometimes I wonder, when people switch to organic foods, can the body adapt or does it reject because it's used to garbage?  

Apr 10, 2020 11:46 AM
Kris Collis, Associate Broker
Smart Way America Realty - East Stroudsburg, PA
Professional Results you Expect 570-801-5525

John Henry, an excellent and extremely important post on many levels hitting all the critical notes  - suburban, rural, walking culture, fresh water, sunshine and self-sustenance are natural preventatives to contagions.
What a poignant example from your early environment.  So important to know people did not get sick even drinking from lightly rinsed glasses, a reality many Americans in particular can't fathom knowing only man's pollution and dumping into the environment while creating super antibiotics that still can't keep up with new strains.  It's no wonder that human immune systems are compromised.  Your early environment probably didn't produce many kids or adults suffering obesity. People then weren't "inhaling" sugar, processed or fast foods. Just clean food straight from the source as many famous New York chefs have been saying for years.  "Eat local."  As your pictures show, people are in the open, in the sunshine and fresh air.  They were living in many ways that fly in the face of urban planners who by squeezing more and more people into buildings also squeeze out access to the life force, Nature's natural prevention. Congrats on your timely article.

Apr 12, 2020 09:48 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Your personal account of living abroad is very interesting in terms of lifestyle and high rise living, be that as it may.  Interesting point to think of achitecture and historical as well as the current pandemic.  How we live, work and learn play a HUGE rule in our lives!  Thank you for an interesting read!  We have a lot of FLW influences here, as youknow.  His school of architecture has had some recent turmoil, closing and then re-opening.  

Apr 13, 2020 02:20 PM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

That was really good reading!  While cities can be vibrant and fun to experience, it's not my style for the long run.  We're feeling very secure and safe in the countryside of Maui, where the air is some of the cleanest in the world.  After this is all over, I think we all need to reexamine our lifestyles in general, and think about what kind of a world we want to live in and leave for the grandkids.

Apr 13, 2020 10:07 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hello Jan Green  I think much of who we are is the sum of where we've been.  And what professors cram into our heads in college!!  ha.  Yes, I saw parallels wished to contrast them with my experience overseas, etc.  As wonderful as FLW's work is/was I am afraid that his conception of what Americans wanted in their homes was not universally accepted...

Apr 14, 2020 05:16 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ

Oh yeah, stark hard interiors aren't popular, except he was ahead of his time with rain water harvesting, uplighting. 

Apr 14, 2020 02:19 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089   Happy you liked the article.  I imagine you feel perfectly safe on Maui and yes, clean air, low density, etc.  I actually felt claustrophobic in NYC near the Empire State Building.  Those streets and sidewalks were definitely not designed of the thousands of people flooding the area.  We have a lot of space in the U.S.  Infrastructure will cost more for decentralized living but perhaps worth the investment to live better.

Apr 14, 2020 08:34 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hello Kris Collis, Associate Broker   I think you actually GOT IT!!  YES. that was what I was trying to convey.  Probably not very well.  People in the 'old country' (and as in the U.S. perhaps 60 years or more ago) have built up their immune systems to ward off most flus, viruses, etc.  We are weaker due to a reliance on vaccines and antiseptic environments.   COVID, obviously, has affected the entire world, the old and new, clean and unclean.  I think you have a better chance of resisting infection if you are 'in the dirt' more than in bubbles of cleanliness...  It was rare to see obese people in Turkey and Greece.  We ate the fruit of the season and that was our sugar high.  Yes, there were sweets but these were eaten sparingly.  Fresh fruits and vegetables went a long way to keep our immune systems strong.  Yoghurt with acidophilus is really good for you and fresh meats on the grill.  Rarely had anything frozen or out of cans.  It was a different world.   We walked everywhere constantly.  Thanks for your comments!

Apr 14, 2020 08:41 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP   Yes, as soon as you run thousands of cars and buses into a city center the pollution goes up.  AC systems are belching on top of the buildings, sewers are reeking, people are spitting and coughing into each other, the streets are dirty, etc.  And asthmatic conditions become worse.  With so many cities seeing the light of day and clear air due to the shutdowns, the movement towards 'green' may see more proponents.  Living in a big city also makes you an easier target for crime, although the opposite has been suggested.  Those who feel disenfranchised and living in poor conditions will fight back.  

You should finish your research and book!!

Apr 14, 2020 08:50 AM