Placemaking on streets

So YES, there are successful examples of place making from Ottawa streets.

Let’s look at two.

To promote a special autumn festival event, the  Italian Canadian Community Centre has installed fall-themed decor at many intersections along Preston. They instantly change the feel of the place from “roadway” to “people live here, decorate here, care about here”. And presumably, stop and shop, or stop and drink eat here. So motorists will get a subtle message to be a bit more careful in their driving. Temporary installations also work to keep motorists alert, now that things like the sidewalk sculptures have become background.

Another fine example of place making is evident on Bayswater, a residential street with the misfortune to run from Carling to Scott, thus making it a convenient zoom-thru-the-neighbourhood roadway for cut through motorists. The city is resisting attempts to keep it residential. Which leads residents to adopt their own measures, like the pretend cafe shown below.

How does a pretend cafe work? It tells motorists that people might be around. Be on the lookout. Aside from that it is pretty and decorative. It turns a plain bulb out into a place. Is anyone likely anyone will sit there? Who knows until you try. I am always surprised to see people sitting on the benches along Preston. Every day. And evening. Every season. Who knew what we were missing until we got it?

The City prefers engineering “solutions” to the traffic problems it creates. Ergo, stop signs, traffic lights, bulb outs, speed bumps, etc. All carefully sold as traffic calming, but simultaneously engineered to minimise the slow down and inconvenience to motorists.

And its deliberate attempts at placemaking focus too much on expensive pavers and “wow, look at that” backdrops for photo-ops. Posing-pouch urbanism substituting for a solid useful package.

Opportunities for place making, like the reconstruction of Elgin, are foregone by spending too much money for the wrong things (see story here:    http://www.westsideaction.com/fixing-elgin-redesign

Now, if the Bayswater cafe set wanted to re-use those bales of hay from Preston, they could create some temporary chicanes or windings in the street to force motorists to slow down. Cheap, effective, unapproved. What’s not to like?

2 thoughts on “Placemaking on streets

  1. Eric. We returned Monday afternoon from the cottage to be surprised and delighted to find the autumn decorations still in place. It seems politeness and respect for on street installations is alive and well! Perhaps the surfaces weren’t amenable to the graffiti vandals! Let’s hope the firebugs don’t discover them.

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