I have been pondering the apparent paradox of constraints. In making certain decision to limit my choices, my things, my options, my tools, it seems to have the effect of opening up possibilities I did not know existed. Choosing these constraints seems to remove the constraints from my ability to think and act with creativity.
First, Rebecca lives at The Commons in the inner-north of Melbourne. The Commons is an unusual apartment development for a number of reasons, such as having a communal laundry on the roof, a roof-top garden for each of the residents, and perhaps most controversially for an inner-urban development, no car parking spaces. Moving to this apartment complex meant the adoption of a number of constraints into Rebecca’s live, including living more simply and selling her car. But despite these restrictions, results of this development for those that live there have been quite remarkable.
In the three years since it was completed, only two people have moved out. The features like the communal laundry and garden, and the low balcony walls between apartments, means that people have many opportunities for unplanned interactions with their neighbours. This, combined with the shared values of simple and sustainable living, has meant a strong and closely connected community has developed for those who live there. Neighbours know each other’s birthdays, know the names of each other kids, and instead of looking down when they pass one another in the lift lobby, actually stop and have a chat.
At the time it was a difficult move for Rebecca to sell her car in order to move into The Commons Rebecca. Not only was she confronted with her own doubt, but also some of those around her questioned its sustainability. But she discovered that in removing that choice, so many other options opened up to her. Riding her bicycle is now a regular activity, as is walking her son to school and catching public transport. And in turn, these type of transportation activities open up so many more options for connection and interaction with her neighbours and surrounding residents, options that the bubble of a driving in a car can deny us.
In other parts of her life constraints also feature: Rebecca is an artist; she has led the tech start-up BeCollective, managed and curated the art collection at a public hospital, and now is working at the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to help bring about change through the constraints in culture, funding and history she finds herself within there.
The constraints she has chosen to work within have led Rebecca down a path that I suspect is more diverse and fulfilling than any she could have imagined. When I think about her breadth of skills and experience, and the values she lives by, I am excited and intrigued to see the impact she will have through her current and upcoming projects. I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation.