Sunday, August 23, 2009

The playful landscape

Book cover "The Creative City"

Too often we get caught up in the control of urban space to control crime. We target harden our stuff. We build our defensible space. We fort-up with gated communities.

At times it seems we have gone mad!

Awhile back I met Charles Laudry, author of The Creative City, during a project to rehab a downtown city park from druggies. During field walk-a-bouts I heard the same old solutions – defend, harden, and fort-up. I was reminded of Wendy Sarkissian’s line that we so often exclude "the other".

Truth is, lots of visitors to this park were not druggies. They were homeless and down-and-out, many of whom wanted druggies no more than anyone else. They were also students, shoppers, office workers, and tourists. My fear I believe Charles shared was that forting-up might exclude the very mix of people that makes places worthwhile.

Charles’ approach is different. He is all about making places creative and fun. His creative city shows how we need to tap into the urban creativity and imagination of residents themselves when building places. Consider, for example, the work of Richard Florida.

How does an urban place become creative? The City Repair program is one example. Another is signage. Here are photos emailed to me recently of some public toilet signs. It seems Charles is right. Whenever possible, funning-up is far more interesting than forting-up.

Which way to the restroom?

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