Completed at the Department of Architecture at the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) Zürich, this dissertation examines contemporary urban mutations that have materialised as a result of the emergence and expansion of the Third Age.
According to English social historian Peter Laslett, the Third Age refers both to a historical moment and a phase of life. As a historical moment, it may be characterised by the coincidence of the demographics of extended longevity, and the domination of retirement as an institution – a moment that occurred at the mid-point of the twentieth century in the more developed countries.
As a phase of life, the Third Age has been developed as a category to distinguish between at least two different types of older person that have emerged in the post-war period. The traditional notion of ‘old- age’ has bifurcated between the ailing and dependent ‘Old-Old’ (the Fourth Age) and a new and rapidly expanding population of healthy and independent ‘Young-Old’ (the Third Age.) The Third Age has emerged as a new leisure class distinct from previous conceptions in terms of its presence as a mass phenomenon and as a permanent one. As a phase of life, it has been characterized as a period of ‘late freedom’ – encompassing freedom from the responsibilities associated with: adulthood such as work and childcare; and childhood, such as education and socialization; as well as freedom from the physical and mental disabilities associated with traditional old-age. Such freedoms with which to construct utopias have been accompanied by a lack of existing scripts and protocols to direct how persons might live in this new, historically unprecedented phase of life. The ‘Third Age’, therefore, by definition, has emerged as an experimental field for alternate forms of subjectivity and collectivity, and, as will be presented in this dissertation, alternate forms of urbanism.
To date, the documentation and theorization of urban phenomena associated with this particular demographic group has been sparse and fragmentary. Previous research has tended to focus either on: single isolated urban or architectural examples excluded from the broader socio-demographic issues critical to their formation; or as case studies clustered together under the umbrella of functionalist solutions to the so-called ‘problem of old age.’ This dissertation, by contrast, is focused on delineating an experimental field of urbanism that has emerged from a specific socio-demographic milieu.
The dissertation is comprised of three main parts. The first part provides the socio-demographic context within which an urbanism of the Third Age has emerged. This encompasses: the process of demographic transformation commonly defined as population ageing; the increasing dominance of the institution of retirement; and the emergence of a conception of subjectivity described as the Third Age, along with the social forms associated with it. The first and most important precedents of Third Age urbanism – Youngtown, Sun City and Leisure World – are presented to provide a full historical context. Originating in the south-western United States over the period of one decade beginning in the mid- 1950s, each example defined new protocols that would be influential in contemporary urbanism of the Third Age.
The second component of the dissertation – the project’s core – encompasses four contemporary urban probes: The Villages of Florida, United States; the urbanizaciones of Costa del Sol, Spain; Huis Ten Bosch, near Nagasaki, Japan; and the senior recreational vehicle community in the United States. Each probe entails the documentation and theorization of conceptual approaches and material techniques novel to each of these sites of Young-Old inhabitation. These approaches and techniques do not necessarily fit neatly into classical systems of urban and architectural categorization, but vary in register from golf cart infrastructure to recreational vehicle squatting practices, and from strip-mall hospitals to comprehensively themed environments of nostalgia.
The third and final component of the dissertation provides a summation, in which collectively, the probes delineate contemporary features of what could be referred to loosely as Third Age Urbanism. This term is not intended to define a singular morphological or typological state, but a range of tendencies both producing, and produced by, specific socio-demographic conditions. These tendencies outline a mode of urbanism radically different from that associated with old-age during the first half of the twentieth century and prior; and considerably expanded upon the first historical precedents realised in the post-war period. To a large extent, this is a result of the increasing specialisation, commercialisation and corporatisation of the now massive industry of retirement urbanism.
Tendencies the dissertation elaborates on include: the extension and exploitation of the concept of retirement utopia; the increased level of age-segregation through the application of demographics and market segmentation in the delivery of lifestyle products; evolving forms of private governance, including the emerging presence of urban formats of informality; the expanded realisation of individuals, social groups and environments in various states of mobility; the increasing influence of the entertainment-industrial complex, particularly evident in the deployment of themeing; and lastly, the increasing instrumentalisation of urbanism focused toward goals such as the rationalisation of the delivery of leisure products, and the disciplining of time. The dissertation addresses the inherent ambivalence that such tendencies elicit.
Effektiv start/slut dato01/11/200510/05/2010