City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

A second batch of Slowdown Papers

Written in


Afternoon walk, Stockholm 16 April 2020

Dear readers —

Many thanks for subscribing to the Slowdown Papers. I won’t intrude into your inbox much, but this is just to note that I’ve published a second batch of Papers, numbers 1318.

They build on some of themes from the first set, of course, but take some of those ideas for a walk, using the design principle that Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen devised in order to explore the spatial (and other) connections between things. He said: “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context — a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”

So reflecting on the impact of the lockdown due to Covid-19, I explore implications at various scales, effectively from the cellphone to the city and countryside and beyond. As with the earlier pieces, they are not predictions, strategies, or even direct suggestions, but they do try to articulate some of the possibilities around us, even in this most terrible of situations.

In that, they build on a book I discovered after releasing the first batch: ‘Slowdown: The end of the Great Acceleration — and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives’, by Oxford University professor of geography Danny Dorling. It was released a few days after I posted my set, a happy coincidence at an often unhappy time. It brilliantly threads a narrative, supported by tons of data and some particularly intriguing and fiendish graphs, that seems in tune with much of what I am writing and thinking. Do check it out.

This second batch drags some of these ideas down to earth, exploring how the coronavirus could change our patterns and distribution of work, home, neighbourhood, city, countryside, and even begin to address a politics of the disenfranchised. They get into green houses, unpaid labour and why ‘intimate relations’ is better than commuting, Aldo Van Eyck’s playgrounds and social-distancing food markets, the value of crowds, omelette cities and polka dot cities, the ABC-stad and the challenge to city centres (and commercial property), the alternatives to consumption-fuelled scaling and how the ‘making cultures’ in centuries-resilient small firms in the countryside could rebalance global politics—perhaps!—with reference to Jim and Pam from ‘The Office’, before finally recasting Tokyo as a small, slow city — in a good way.

Six mini-essays, links below. I hope you get something out of them. Please do comment, highlight, share, and discuss, if so. Your feedback means a lot. Take care of yourself.

Dan Hill, Stockholm.

13: From Lockdown to Slowdown

“Chair-room-house-environment-city plan”; how the coronavirus could change the strategy for our patterns of distribution of workplaces and work, from home to town to countryside to nation.

14: From Lockdown to Slowdown: Home-Work-Farm

As Covid-19’s Great Pause forces a blurring of home, work, office, classroom, studio, and shop, we get a glimpse of the patterns, spaces, and rhythms of a deeper slowdown.

15: From Lockdown to Slowdown: House-Playground-Street

Circling around our homes and their environs due to coronavirus-induced loops, how do the patterns, edges, and dynamics of neighbourhoods change in the Slowdown?

16: From Lockdown to Slowdown: Neighbourhood-City-Country

The Slowdown brings the return of the ABC-City, neighbourhood markets, crowds in the city, and greenness on the edge of town.

17: From Lockdown to Slowdown: Region-Country-Continent

The changing dynamics of a deeper ‘slowdown’, hinted at by the coronavirus-induced ‘pause’, could change the distribution and dynamics of production and consumption across city, region, and nation, with outcomes not only for sustainability, resilience, and wellbeing but also politics.

18: From Lockdown to Slowdown: Tokyo as Slowdown City

Polka dot city Tokyo as an exemplar of ‘Slowdown’ theory, as the world’s largest and smallest city, and as a case study for others post-COVID.


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