(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘John Muir

“Public life in good quality public spaces is an important part of a democratic life and a full life”*…

 

private space

Paternoster Square, pictured here from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, is owned by the Mitsubishi Estate Company

 

In general, the privatisation of public space in the west accompanied the traumatic transition from an industrial economy to one based on financial services, shopping, entertainment and “knowledge”. This model began in 1970s America, where downtown waterfront areas that were former industrial heartlands were redeveloped into entertainment complexes: Baltimore’s Inner Harbour, described by the Urban Land Institute as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment”, is the prime example.

London’s Docklands, once the hub of the UK’s shipbuilding industry, became a centre for privatised financial services districts such as Canary Wharf, gated developments and private campuses such as the Excel, the enormous conference centre where the potential to “lock down” the site ensures it is well suited to host such events as the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition.

War very often leads to heavily privatised areas, too. In downtown Beirut, the rebuilding of the city centre provided the opportunity for Rafik Hariri, a billionaire businessman and the former prime minister, to form Solidere, a company that has remodelled a 200-hectare area of the city centre.

Jerold S Kayden at Harvard has coined the term Pops (“privately owned public space”) for these types of places, and found that there are 503 in New York City alone. One of the highest profile is Manhattan’s latest tourist attraction, the High Line, which also appears to be the model for London’s contentious Garden Bridge – an urban “park” that bans all sorts of activities, closes for corporate events, does not allow political protest and requires groups of more than eight people to book ahead.

Indeed, the key question in determining how “private” a city might be could be about access, rather than ownership. Zucotti Park, another Pops in New York, was for many months the venue for the Occupy Wall Street protests. Contrast that with London’s Paternoster Square, home to the London Stock Exchange, where Occupy was quickly evicted when the owners took out an injunction. Political activity has been almost entirely squeezed out of London’s square mile, and Occupy had no choice but to camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, on the only genuinely public space left in the city.

So while it may be impossible to name a city or a place as the “most private” in the world, what we can say is that societies with high levels of inequality are also those where the privatisation of the public realm and life behind gates increasingly defines the urban fabric. In Britain and North America, where democracy remains the system by which we define ourselves, the spread of this kind of city space is extremely problematic…

More and more parts of more and more cities are becoming the equivalent of private clubs or airport lounges: “What is the most private city in the world?

Semi-related (but altogether fascinating): “Everything we’ve heard about global urbanization turns out to be wrong.”

* Jan Gehl

###

As we try not to ask about access, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that John Muir set pen to paper to capture his experience of awakening in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  Published in 1911, My First Summer in the Sierra is based on Muir’s original journals External and sketches External of his 1869 stay in the vicinity of the Yosemite Valley.  His journal, which tracks his three-and-a-half-month visit to the Yosemite region and his ascent of Mt. Hoffman and other Sierra peaks, was instrumental in building public support for President Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation efforts, and for the formation of Yosemite National Park and the birth of the National Park Program.

jul-19-muir source

 

Written by LW

July 19, 2018 at 1:01 am

What’s better than that “new car smell”?…

 click here for video

From the fine folks at AbeBooks

Walk into a used bookshop and you will encounter the unique aroma of aging books. The smell is loved by some, disliked by others, but where does it come from?

A physical book is full of organic material that reacts with heat, light, moisture and – mostly importantly – the chemicals used in its production. The smell comes from the reaction of the organic material to these factors.

Chemists at University College, London have investigated the old book odor and concluded that old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air from the paper. The lead scientist described the smell as “A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness”…

More in the notes below the video; and more on book collecting, here.

***

As we fondle our folios, we might send bucolic birthday wishes to Scottish-American inventor, naturalist, farmer, explorer, writer and conservationist John Muir; he was born on this date in 1838.  In 1849, the Muir family emigrated to the Midwest of the U.S., where Muir carved clocks and built curious but practical contraptions (like a device that tipped him out of bed before dawn), that won Wisconsin State Fair prizes (1860). But by 1867, he had begun travelling the U.S.– and developing his love for nature in general, and the Sierra Nevada in particular. In his later years he wrote extensively: 300 articles and 10 major books that recounted his travels, celebrated his beloved wild lands, and expounded his naturalist philosophy. Muir drew attention to the devastation of mountain meadows and forests by sheep and cattle, led the effort to establish the Sequoia and Yosemite national parks– and became the “Father of the National Park System.”

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. (source)

Written by LW

April 21, 2012 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: