Exploring the differences between fully institutionalized poorness such as that established by prisons or prison-like conditions and creating cultural experiences in which families of low-income who are sustaining modest lifestyles with low environmental impact provide within their community a vital level of emotional and intellectual pleasure. This is a subject worthy of development.

The term subsistence implies a life-style highly dependent on the acquisition of necessities: water, food, shelter, and security. Meaning is defined by meeting these requirements that can translate into happiness.

The non-subsistent idea suggests the provision of these basics makes room for other emotional and intellectual opportunities. Maslow’s hierarchy is well known. These benefits appear to be overwhelmed by a completely unknown (or poorly understood) set of disruptive factors that prevent happiness and support various social pathologies that infect entire families.

References to research on this subject that extract any of the architectural space contributions to the causes associated with this issue are needed. One of the “bridges” that extends from architecture serves the monastic life and those who are incarcerated.

David Steindl-Rast has unique insight drawn from a lifetime of the former. He finds the freedom from fear is a good place to start, but only if we stop, listen, and go to the references of the surrounding space. A fifteen-minute TED talk on the idea of gratefulness offers a charming introduction to the problem.

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  1. I have an example. Many cities have large walkable areas on a grid with “walk/don’t walk signals”, that imply an opportunity for a moment of reflective gratitude. Pressing into the intersection at these cross walks is a common behavior, especially in New York. This city has also replaced large areas once held by cars with free tables (many with umbrellas) and chairs that offer a similar opportunity for stopping long enough to embrace a personal and by extension the community’s sense of self-awareness. I would contrast this with places more clearly designed to serve destination to place that primarily depends on the automobile and where the only other casual seating will be found in large malls.

    William H Whyte The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

    The Places of Wythe
    Plazas, Sitting Space, Sun, Wind, Trees, Water, Food, The Street, Indoor Spaces, Concourses and Megastructures, Small Cities and Places

    The Issues of Wythe
    The “Undesirables”, Effective Capacity, Triangulation, and Zoning Provisions (NYC)

    The Long List of the Insightful

    On the question of how urban space encourages a reflective sense of gratitude

    Kevin Lynch
    Edward Hall
    Jane Jacobs
    Hassan Fathy
    Jan Gehl
    Ray Oldenburg
    Jeff Speck
    Charles Montgomery
    Christopher Alexander
    Leland Roth
    Rachel Kaplan
    John R. Logan
    Andres Duany
    Allen B. Jacobs
    Ian L. McHarg
    John Massengale
    Lynden B. Miller
    Susan Fainstein