Hillside Developments

By Stephen Hynes

The network of roads that surround us and on which we travel daily has a powerful and generally poor influence on the organization of our society and our individual lives, and yet this is an influence we rarely consider. Streets are conduits of civic compartmentalization. They are noisy, poisonous and endless strips of wasteland that separate neighbours and neighbourhoods. Perhaps we prefer not to question things we feel powerless to change, but in not questioning our civic organization we allow it to follow us into our homes.

In our cities we create complexes, both apartment and psychological; with uncharacteristic insight, city planners call this bulk housing. Going home to bulk housing consists in driving or riding in a metal box along concrete pathways, being delivered to a poorly lit underground bunker, walking across polluted concrete floors through endless doors to an elevator that opens on airless corridors leading to our living compartments. We hope not to meet anyone else here, and if we do, we will probably ignore them. The experience is one of alienation from both people and place. It explains why we can live for years with a bed that is only twelve inches away from our neighbour’s without knowing their names. Somehow this seems perfectly normal.

We appear individually powerless to change the great structures that condition our lives. But if we understand their influence we can make local, incremental improvements. This is my focus, and Hillside Developments' projects are products of my research in the architectural determinants of community. Each project represents a step in my understanding of this complex issue, and I can only hope they are steps forward.