People not traffic

The hustle and bustle of the city catches my eye

I ty to walk but the traffic is maddening

The footpaths are torn, roads are unclear

Everything is oblique and opaque

I sigh and continue to walk

This city, I think to myself, so poor, crowded and desperate

but yet so energetic and deceiving

But I reach my destination and forget the road

Stay in my destination for a while and when I return home, the madness starts again

It is a walker’s hell but a driver’s heaven

Let more cities be built for the people and not for traffic

This is the plight of the developing world.

 

The Benefits of “Eyes on the Street”

According to Jane Jacobs, more people on our streets means safer neighborhoods

There must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. — Jane Jacobs

As I was reading Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), it inspired me to think about the importance of city streets. City streets are important places where people can come together and get to know each other in the neighborhood. As Jacobs states, her neighborhood in New York City, was very accessible for people, and that almost all people knew one another’s daily activities, which created a sense of social cohesion and security on the street. This is Jacobs’ example of East Village in 1961, where she knew most of her neighbors and activities taking place throughout the day.

Jacobs refers to the concept of “eyes on the street” which is the activity taking place in city streets that keeps the movement and security of the street intact. She suggests that where there is a crowd of people, our streets are safer to use because if someone is in trouble the eyes on the street are ready to assist and protect from danger. She refers to this constant mix of strangers on the street as an “intricate ballet” or a dance where everyone contributes to the well being of the street in making it a liveable place.

Many cities lack this friendly congenial atmosphere that Jacobs’ neighborhood had and to this day her critique of urban planning is not solved with thin suburban neighborhood and urban sprawl still in existence. She suggests that living in high density neighborhoods increases the social character of public space because it makes it more convenient for people to get to know one each other.

“When there are people present in a public space such as city streets, it strengthens the space and inspires social cohesion.”

This led Jacobs to advocate for mixed-use neighborhoods where she suggests that the “eyes” get stronger when there are a range of activities taking place on the street. She suggests pubs and shops are a good strategy to maintain neighborhood safety. When there are people present in a public space such as city streets, it strengthens the space and inspires social cohesion.

Jacobs gives the example of Boston’s North End neighborhood, which was a small “slum” but had very well used streets where the residents felt safe to use the streets on a daily basis, creating a vibrancy in the area. She suggests we need more neighborhoods like North End where people’s activity and close proximity to one another is important.

Although Urban Planning has changed since 1961 when Jacobs first wrote the book, there is still a lot that could be improved, especially when it comes to city streets. People often avoid the use of streets that are unsafe or unused, however, instead of demolishing these areas, there is a need to bring in people and make it safe rather than avoiding them.

Jacobs’ concept of eyes on the street is still beneficial for today’s public spaces in order to make them more welcoming and beneficial for people to use. Since Jacobs’ book there has been many more public spaces being erected akin to her philosophies. People use the public spaces and city streets a lot more to interact with other people today and there is an idea that public spaces are useful for our cities, as the public uses them on a daily basis. Many scholars have taken Jacobs’ ideas and put them into practice. This includes Jan Gehl, who is an active advocate for public spaces in support of Jacobs’ ideas.

Therefore, if the concept of eyes on the street is utilized well, it can really change the way architecture and city planning are used to create the vibrancy of not only our streets but also public space on the whole in today’s cities.

The Importance of Public Spaces

The Importance of Public Spaces

“A good city is like a good party — people stay longer than really necessary, because they are enjoying themselves”

— Jan Gehl

Public spaces are an important asset to our cities. They provide people many opportunities to come together and engage with the community. If public spaces are successful they are inclusive of the diversity of groups present in our cities and create a social space for everyone in the society to participate in.

There are many factors that contribute to a successful public space, some factors (supported by Project for Public Spaces) are:

The accessibility of the space

This includes how welcoming the space is and whether people can access the space the way they feel comfortable in. This includes disability access and making a space for everyone regardless of their circumstances to be a part of the society through public space. One good way to ensure public spaces are accessible is to provide good seating in them so that people can enjoy the space for a long time and seek respite (as illustrated in the images below).

Times Square

The comfort of the space

This is the ability for people to be themselves in the public realm. One of the greatest joys of going to a public space is so that people can express themselves fully. This might involve meeting new people, rekindling with old friends, participating in activities in the space or interacting with the public art in the space. These are all ways that people can be comfortable in the public sphere. One example of being comfortable in a public space is engaging with public art. The Bean Sculpture in Chicago is a great example of where people are comfortable to express themselves. Public art tends to create a very comfortable atmosphere for people to express their true selves and interact with the objects while bringing out the best in people.

The Bean Sculpture
Jeppe Hein’s Seating Sculpture

Creating sociability

Many scholars in human geography have explored this idea of ‘sociality’ in the public sphere. It is basically the interactions people have in the public space and about the connection this forms between the person and the space. This might include the social networks people form on the street or city squares. Creating an opportunity for people to meet new people in the public space is important because this adds to the sociability of public space. Having social events in the public space such as music concerts or hosting movies are also a great way to get people to engage with one another. This creates an intricate connection between the space and the people in it forming a sense of ‘togetherness’ in the space as stated by Doreen Massey.

Movie at a public space

Project for public spaces has illustrated these factors in the following diagram which explains the concept of a successful public space.

This indicates that when urban planners and architects construct public spaces, they should keep the above factors in mind in order to make it successful.

There are many examples of successful public spaces around the world, from Trafalgar Square in London to New York’s High Line Park and Times Square, which embody all the factors mentioned above. While there are many other ways to be creative in public space, these are just a few examples to increase the overall quality of public spaces.

Therefore, public spaces should be a valued asset where cities embrace the concept of creating more vibrant and welcoming spaces for everyone to use. This can also be a powerful way to create more positive environments for people to assimilate and come together as a society as described above.

Interactive Public Spaces Make Successful Places

Community spaces enhance our surroundings. They try to bring people together in a cohesive environment, which is open to the public. This can be seen in many squares, streets, markets and parks worldwide where people from different backgrounds come together in groups.

Many urbanists such as Lefebvre, Doreen Massey, Ash Amin and others have written on this issue of public space and community. Lefebvre thinks that people have an innate desire to communicate and play with their surroundings through the ‘oeuvre’ where they come together in different ways to experience their environment. According to him, everything humans experience in the outer world is planned as the human has the “need to see, to hear, to touch, to taste and the need to gather these perceptions in a world.” Community spaces highly inspire such “anthropological needs” of human beings making everything in the public space an urban experience.

Public space serves as a very important entity in our urban lives. It helps us relax, motivates us to see things we might otherwise overlook, and also helps us to be part of a community. As Stephen Carr states in his book Public Space:

“When public spaces are successful they will increase opportunities to participate in communal activity. In the parks, plazas, markets, waterfronts, and natural areas of our cities, people from different cultural groups can come together in a supportive context of mutual enjoyment. As these experiences are repeated, public spaces become vessels to carry positive communal meanings.”

This means people draw from their public spaces is an important concept towards the study of urbanism. Public art in public spaces for instance can make people interact with each other and the object as they experience joy from the communal space.

Ash Amin, a geographer from the University of Cambridge who has researched into this area, notes that the public space gives a sense of freedom and safety for people to be open so as to not perceive the space as a threat. This is because it’s common behavior to feel threatened in our streets and outdoor spaces. We don’t always feel like we can be ourselves outside of our homes when we are left alone in a big city. There are certain behavioral practices and rules to be followed. But in some public spaces, there is an element of play and interaction which makes us forget those community rules we follow while walking alone on the street. Many spaces also gives us the opportunity to get together with our friends and relatives and act nonchalantly. Urbanists think that such places are planned to be perceived in a freer manner for community gathering.

What makes our community spaces interactive? Why do we behave in a different manner when we interact with our community in comparison to when we don’t? Why do we feel less threatened? These are questions many urbanists ponder over our cities and how to make successful public spaces.

I feel that as humans we all have an innate desire to communicate with each other and when we interact we feel safer and less threatened than when we are left alone. Public spaces which enhance interaction not only with humans but also with objects are successful because of this innate desire. We get a sense of fulfilment and joy in immersing ourselves with objects or other people. Our public spaces show that we all long to interact with our spaces and the ones which help us do so, are successful.

Therefore, public spaces should create more interactive environments so that people can participate in them. There are many ways to do this, through landscaping, design and amenities provided in the public space. More research into this topic will provide a better understanding of ways to make public spaces more interactive.

The Task of Writing

The Task of Writing

Some helpful points to realise your writing potential.

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”

This quote by Winston Churchill resonates within me. I find it hard to believe how the difficulties in my life have many times resulted in opportunities. Some opportunities grabbed; others missed. I would not have been sitting here writing this post without having encountered difficulties in my life prior to this article.

Writing can be a difficult task. No matter how adept one thinks they are at writing, there are always opportunities for improvement. I have definitely had an emotional relationship with writing. Many times my work has been discredited and criticised. But I never stopped trying. It was difficult, to begin with — the only way I could improve was to take the criticisms constructively and to keep improving my skills.

I have certainly come a long way with my writing skills. I believe that improvement is a state of mind which can be attained only by repeatedly trying to construct. As Churchill suggests, consistently mastering the difficulties will result in opportunities.

It has been a wonderful learning curve for me and one that I am yet to master. Although I had always written essays for my courses at University, writing for work is a different experience. I have proved to myself that I can write academically as well as professionally.

Here are four important points to remember before one starts writing. They might be helpful to anyone who is interested in writing:

Read a lot — There is a lot of material out there to choose from. Read articles which interest you. It is likely that by reading articles which are of interest to you, you will gain an understanding of the writing style you want to adopt.

Volunteer — Personally, volunteering to write articles online has tremendously increased my faith and confidence in writing. The more I wrote, regardless of the topic or the length of the post, the better I became at writing. This is a very positive way to gain feedback from experienced professional writers or other bloggers.

Blog — Maintain your own blog. Write as much as you possibly can. Start small and build your way up. I have maintained a blog for a short time now and I am extremely happy with the way it has progressed. I have acquired a decent amount of followers on my blog. Many people are also willing to give feedback. Remember to experiment as much as you can. It’s a great way to improve and understand your personal skills!

Don’t give up — Believe that you can do it. Don’t let anxiety get the better of you. It can be overwhelming while seeing other experienced writers do a great job when you’re just starting. Realise they were also once like you. Everyone begins small. Trusting that you can, might surprise you into achieving something that you might have initially feared.

I will miss you.

I used to see you everyday.

Every single day – You and me.

You used to teach me right from wrong

Tell me how to play by the rules

But now you’re gone.

Harboring a new horizon.

I will miss you my love.

I will miss you like hell.

You never knew how much you meant to me

How much I valued you

I thank you for all the wisdom and help

I hope one day our paths cross again

I will miss you like hell.