Public Space Essays

Public Space Essays-87
It doesn’t take a star to convert trashed-out places to community spaces.But it does take people with all kinds of talents who can figure out how to work together to reclaim broken places.

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"I had no way of proving who I was," Staples writes.

"I could only move briskly toward the company of someone who knew me." (106) While writing for a Chicago paper, Staples walked into a jewelry store in another well-off part of town, and encountered another situation where his skin color came into play.

Apparently, this woman figured that if a black man did find himself in this part of town, he was most likely up to something.

Not wanting any trouble, she decided to get out of harm's way.

The group organized volunteers for what became known as a “spotfix”—an effort to pick up garbage and install pathways, planters, trash bins, and no-smell urinals in what had been a smelly, ugly space along a city street in Bangalore.

These volunteers remained anonymous so that no one person would grab the credit for transforming rubbish and stench into a public space people could enjoy.They figured out that painting walls a maroon color would cover the statins of betel nut spit without provoking tensions among India’s different ethnic groups, which consider maroon a neutral color.The anonymous professionals and volunteers behind The Ugly Indian are structural and social architects—not of Gehry’s stature and not public figures like Mac Adams—but architects nevertheless.They also need to recognize the multiple benefits that a broken place can hold.The Los Angeles River has become the center of a revival movement as Angelenos have come to see it as more than a means to control floods or a place to dump trash.Dear Reader, One of the questions I have been asked most often by aspiring writers is how I began to publish.Variations of the question hint at certain myths about the publishing business—how being at the right place at the right time, or having the right connection to the right people, would be the most important factor in one’s career.This garden on the Lower East Side showed me how it’s done.To reclaim a broken place, people from disparate walks of life need to work together.And putting their own spin on a popular saying attributed to India’s most famous activist—Gandhi’s “Be the Change You Want to See”—The Ugly Indian’s motto is “See the Change You Want to Be.” Behind the volunteers who take part in spotfixes is a group of anonymous designers and tech-savvy millennials who contribute their expertise to The Ugly Indian.They have designed no-odor urinals and trash bins suitable for public spaces.


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