Articles From the May 1995 Unification News


Garden Homes: A New Approach to Housing Ourselves

by Michael Craig-Warren, MI

The intent of this article is to suggest a way in which Unificationism may be substantiated in home design. Not being an architect by trade, my interest in this field arose out of efforts to address the challenges I confronted in my hometown of Detroit.

When our family moved to Detroit after what was for me a 20-year absence, I was shocked and dismayed at how rundown the city had become. Racial polarization was extreme. An 8-mile road, marking the city limits to the north, had become a clear demarcation line between black and white communities. At night, the business district, except for a tiny area of a few blocks known as Greek Town, had become a no- man's land, a place where few whites would willing venture. Many of the beautiful Victorian homes of the inner city had been allowed to decay beyond the possibility of restoration. The city itself could not afford to demolish them. Each year on Devil's night, Detroit's skyline is lit by a hazy red glare, as it had become a tradition for arsonists to torch old buildings for sport. For all intents and purposes, there was little of a city left.

The loss I felt witnessing Detroit's decline prodded me to a study of urban systems. I sought to understand not merely what had gone wrong (which was pretty obvious), but what would constitute the dynamics of a viable urban center. Here I was influenced by the work of Jane Jacobs, particularly her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, first published in the 1950s (possibly the best book ever written on the city). This research made it clear to speak of "urban renewal" without stemming, or even reversing the middle class flight away from the city, would be an exercise in futility. I devoted myself to seeking ways to attract higher income families back into neighborhoods which had slid far along the path of decline. There was no simple solution.

In conjunction with this external challenge, I, along with other Tribal Messiahs in the area, had to deal with the question of how we could better unite to accomplish the goals of Unificationism. Although we knew it would be impossible to succeed in our collective mission unless we pulled together, it was difficult to reach a consensus on how this could be accomplished. In truth, part of our inability to formulate a definitive community arose from the problems of Detroit itself. Most TMs did not want to live in the city for many reasons: crime, inadequate schooling, decaying infrastructures, etc. In the search for quality schooling for our children, and affordable housing in neighborhoods with lower crime rates, we found ourselves spread out over the Metro area. It became impractical to meet as a community except on Sundays and special occasions. As each family became involved in the struggle to feed, clothe and shelter themselves, there was little time and energy left to promote a significant transformation of our collective social environment.

In this regard, the concept "where two or more are gathered" took on a new meaning for me. Single families existing miles apart would never succeed in bringing about the kind of radical change implied by True Parents' tradition. However, a physical community (minimum of four families) could perhaps generate enough "critical mass" to tilt the scales. I had come to believe such a community could not originate in the suburbs. Rather, restoration needed to begin in the urban core itself. To restore the total urban system of Metropolitan Detroit, we had to return to "hell" (Detroit) and transform hell into heaven. This could serve as a base to reverse the middle class exodus, thus reviving Detroit as a veritable city of God.

On the foundation of my desire to accomplish these goals, one day I "received a vision" of a community housing pattern referred to here as the Garden Home. It was a moment of illumination and intense excitement. Although I could not have articulated the reason for inner exultation, intuitively I felt I had been given an answer to my quest. What convinced me this insight came from God (or the angelic world) was that I had given little thought to the specifics of housing in itself. Although a year earlier our membership had discussed the possibility of co-housing (two or three families living together), this never worked out. Thus the insight coming as it did seemed to me an authentic "bolt from the blue."

The illustration accompanying this article is one of many possible ground floor plans for a Garden Home. Take a moment to examine it. What you see is a four-family complex centrally connected by the community dining area. Each unit contains a comfortable margin of living space for a family of five (second floor bedrooms are not shown). There are many reasons why I believe four families is a good number to work it. First because combining four units into one seems to work out well structurally (dynamically resembling the four position foundation). Second, four families seems the minimum necessary to make a functional community sufficiently cost effective per family. Co-housing between two or three families may not significantly reduce the cost of living for each. On the other hand, attempting to create a working community with larger numbers of people, makes the consensus necessary for the smooth functioning of everyday life difficult to achieve. Building communities of 15 to 30 families as represented by the co-housing movement originating in Denmark can take years to get off the ground. The two co-housing groups I know of in Michigan have been recruiting for a couple of years now. Neither have attained their goal as yet.

Erecting a single Garden Home, compared with building four separate homes, would be less expensive for many reasons. Further, the uniformity of structural design would allow these units to be prefabricated, further reducing building costs. Because a Garden Home utilizes less acreage than separate homes of comparable size, this would reduce property costs, as well as freeing more land for gardening and recreation (hence the term Garden Home), in general, this format promotes the conservation of one of our most precious resources-space.

Another way Garden Homes are cost effective is in terms of the community oriented lifestyle they are designed to promote. Within the environment of a Garden Home, participating families could reduce total costs through enhanced cooperation in food buying, babysitting, and a hundred other details of everyday life. There could be co- sharing of big ticket items such as lawnmowers, power tools, etc., as well. It is easy to imagine parents (and older children) having weekly meetings in the community dining area (perhaps over dinner) to discuss ways to cooperate to further reduce the economic burden of raising families. This would free each to devote more time to witnessing and teaching.

What the Garden Home idea suggests is the possibility of using housing as a deliberate tool to create "internal community." Unless we "intend" community we will have social chaos, the same chaos now reflected in urban systems the world over. I recently encountered some early issues of the Mother Earth News. Rereading them brought up a wealth of memories of the "golden age" of the `60s counterculture. It seemed to me Garden Homes can provide a new opportunity to substantiate ideals of common brotherhood we once cherished with such passion and conviction

Perhaps what inspires me most about this idea, however, is the potential to develop a daily environment for our children to experience the intensity of joyful give and take as comes only through a physically based God-centered community (remember that first weekend workshop, gathering with brothers and sisters to sing songs and share testimonies?). Although we have wandered many years in the wasteland of this "misdirected" world, do we wish the same for our children? I believe Father has tried to teach us we can enter the direct dominion of God's love only as a community. To commune from afar, or merely "in the spirit" appears to me insufficient. Such thinking is not the Completed Testament.

This becomes more clear when considering dynamics of viable urban centers. Thriving cities exert a tremendous draw upon their hinterlands, attracting diverse peoples toward the center in ever more complex levels of interaction. This process is critical to the development of rich cultures and strong economies. On the other hand, dying cities function opposite. They are characterized by dispersal, a draining away of the best minds to other places. Given this, to restore our cities we need begin with a physically based nucleus of families living in close proximity (walking distance at least). In this way we may be able to reverse the disintegration and initiate a "centrally directed grown process" once again.

For more information on these ideas, contact Michael Craig, 7515 Jackson, Warren, MI 48091, 810-758-34121.


Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Copyright Information