One of the key ideas in all fields of creativity is White Space.
Claude Debussy said, “Music is the space between the note,” while Miles Davis put it as, “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”
Typography devotes enormous attention to spaces—spaces between paragraphs, between words, even between letters.
Of course, most art galleries and museums have bare white walls, so as to focus attention on the artworks.
We should resist the urge to turn every space in our city into a place. If every space is a place, then there are no places at all; nothing will stand out, nothing will be special. We need the space between places.
So, I think we need to be realistic about the Rockland Greenway. It is a space, not a place.
Places, furthermore, are not just a critical mass of sidewalk seating and trees, that if you build, they will come. There seems to be a sort of alchemical mix of things that increase the chances a space will become a place. There needs to be a pretty high amount of foot traffic—people attract more people. Seating, tables, views, games, cafés, restaurants, bars, green space, monuments, great buildings, a plazas or square all increase the chances—but do not guarantee a space will become a place.
Sometimes the alchemy just doesn’t work out.
The Rockland Greenway is not working out. There is already a lovely park, with historical gravestones, seating and large trees. There is a beautiful old church, from which, if you are lucky, you can hear the bell-ringers practicing.
But this area is oddly placed in relation to nearby residences—it is not close or far. It is surrounded by dead streets and blank buildings, parking and alleys. There are no eyes, no animating cafés.
Spending significant budget to convert asphalt to grass just means the Parks Department will have more to mow. There is no reason to think another 20 feet of grass will suddenly make this block a place.
I have a proposal: the 2015 Summer Street Hockey League.
Drop some common concrete medians on both ends of Rockland as backstops to keep the ball in the rink. Leave a gap in the middle of the backstop the width of a hockey net. Drop a set of bleachers against the church wall for seating.
When street hockey is not being played, the net can be moved out of the gap, and there is instantly bicycle access through Rockland.
In the long term, the sidewalk on the park side can be slightly widened, so when hockey is being played, there will be comfortable room for pedestrians and cyclists. In the longer long term, this would be an excellent location for a bicycle polo court, which could also support street hockey; even basketball.
These are activities that Rockland could support, by being a space, not a place.
Guest Author Bio
Ruben consults on behaviour change and regenerative systems. Trained as a product designer, he worked in the belly of the global mass manufacturing system.
He has worked with the City of Vancouver. Metro Vancouver, BC Housing, Industry Canada and private sector clients, and taught Sustainable Design at Emily Carr University.
He blogged for TreeHugger.com and theTyee.ca. His recent writing and presentations can be found at www.SmallAndDeliciousLife.com
Visit Ruben’s Blog / Website: www.smallandeliciouslife.com