Thursday, May 03, 2007

beaten to the punch

I've been doing a lot of research about repurposing (or dual-purposing) infrastructure as public space. But with all of my bluster, I missed something in my own backyard. The City of Santa Monica is opening its first new park in years, Airport Park. The city claims the 8.3 acre park will have "playing fields, an off-leash dog area, restrooms, picnic areas, a playground for children, parking and lots of open green space". Or rather, already has, as the grand opening was last Sunday.

The location of my favorite beach should give away the fact that I find this all terribly exciting. The fact that a) I have a dog and b) This is less than a mile from my house is just an added bonus.

Look at the last 20 years of urbanism. What percentage of new public space have been created in and around infrastructure? You have repurposed dumps, docks, and even aqueducts and elevated rails. You also have honest attempts to create viable public space between and under and even over freeways. This is just a tiny fraction of what has happened in the last twenty years. It has surpassed experimentation and is now a gradual refining of strategies to mitigate the negative aspects of the quasi-industrial (noise, pollution, access) and emphasize the positive (space, reclamation, freedom, sublimity).

So I ask: why wait until these sites are dormant or decrepit? Why shouldn't we be reclaiming this valid public space now? It's silly to assume that freeway systems and airports and power plants are a fixed quantity; all infrastructure becomes obsolete eventually. What's the fifty year plan for the space under your local freeway?

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