Function or Form?

I had a recent conversation with an roadway engineer about the Oakland project to revitalize the walkway and the Harrison/20th/Lakeside intersection in Uptown Oakland known as Lakeside Green Street. He was explaining to me that the work they were doing to build storm water treatment was a waste of time and money and we should be spending the money on preserving land to keep it undeveloped. I challenged his claim, respectfully, and asked questions to better understand his opinion (maybe he thought it was fact).  We also discussed how the Bay Bridge was a waste of money because we could have built a bridge that was a third of the cost without it’s beautification of have a tower and cables. What the difference of opinion came down to was a discussion about function over form.

“Function is much more important than form” he argued and therefore, “form comes after function”. I nodded my head, not in agreement, but now that I understood his point of view. Later I thought about our conversation because I didn’t have a good answer for him at the time because I see function and form as equals by themselves. It’s the context that drives the weight to function over form.

I pondered how form can serve as a very important function for human beings. Humans behavior is driven by emotions (don’t believe me? look at our last 2018 election). When they see beauty as part of a functioning infrastructure, it inspires them. Whether it inspires them to also build beautiful infrastructure, paint an inspiring piece, run a little bit faster at the end of their run, or to work a bit later to win that deal, the beautiful infrastructure serves the community.

To that end, form is a function. A function of inspiration.

Where to go?

What are you thinking if you are a pedestrian when you first cross this?  I was thinking, I’m not waiting for this bullshit light and I’m going straight through to the island so I can wait to cross the street. This intersection is clearly built for cars, but it’s not even designed well for motorists. It confuses some people and it’s an incident ready to happen where a pedestrian could get hurt. What you don’t see is that there is a major street just behind where this picture was taken. Cars are coming to this intersection at speeds of 35-45 mph making the environment not safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

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