Thursday, September 26, 2013

The taberna in modern times

A taberna world is a personal world, not plastic, generic, bland, and abstract, like today’s world. Pattern 87 gives us a society where shopping doesn’t rob the individual and the community of dignity and choice and enables more localised transparency for the true costs of the transactions made. I’m sorry that today’s consumer culture, if not turned around, will just enlarge this hole of emptiness, just like sugar does for the hole in your tooth. The more you get, the worse the pain. Pattern 87 offers a new kind of shopping, where shopping sustains both community and personal relationships. And this is what we really need!

Surely, the ancient taberna belongs to a future world of joy, sustainability and freedom!

When shops are too large, or controlled by absentee owners, they become plastic, bland, and abstract.


    Do what you can to encourage the development of individually owned shops. Approve applications for business licenses only if the business is owned by those people who actually work and manage the store. Approve new commercial building permits only if the proposed structure includes many very very small rental spaces.

    The profit motive creates a tendency for shops to become larger. But the larger they become, the less personal their service is, and the harder it is for other small shops to survive. Soon, the shops in the economy are almost entirely controlled by chain stores and franchises.

    The franchises are doubly vicious. They create the image of individual ownership; they give a man who doesn’t have enough capital to start his own store the chance to run a store that seems like his; and they spread like wildfire. But they create even more plastic, bland, and abstract services. The individual managers have almost no control over the goods they sell, the food they serve; policies are tightly controlled; the personal quality of individually owned shops is altogether broken down.

    Communities can only get this personal quality back if they prohibit all forms of franchise and chain stores, place limits on the actual size of stores in a community, and prohibit absentee owners from owning shops. In short, they must do what they can to keep the wealth generated by the local community in the hands of that community.

    Even then, it will not be possible to maintain this pattern unless the size of the shop spaces available for rent is small. One of the biggest reasons for the rise of large, nationally owned franchises is that the financial risk of starting a business are so enormous for the average individual. The failure of a single owner’s business can be catastrophic for him personally; and it happens, in large part because he can’t afford the rent. Many hundreds of tiny shops, with low rents, will keep the initial risk for a shop keeper who is starting, to a minimum.

    Shops of Morocco, India, Peru, and the older parts of older towns, are often no more than 50 square feet in area. Just room for a person and some merchandise – but plenty big enough. — Pattern 87, A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, page 432 – 434
The Ancient Taberna in a Future World (√ėyvind Holmstad,