I wrote about generous design back in June on the Design Council website http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/5-world-s-most-generous-public-spaces-wayne-hemingway and one thing that definitely goes hand in hand with “generosity” in the public realm is “trust”. There is a great deal of well-placed trust in Copenhagen Baths, where people are trusted not to drink the canal water and are trusted to behave responsibly.
I am a great believer that if you trust humans to do the right thing that the vast majority of times we do the right thing. Yet time and time again we are denied “trust”. I remember the early days of CABE (Commission for the Built Environment) when we were out taking pictures like this:
Suggesting that we replace signs like the above with these:
Wherever I go I see a lack of trust, from mind numbingly stupid signs like this in Minehead:
Say No to Strangers what’s that all about? It basically says “every person you haven’t met before has a decent chance of doing something wrong to you”. Do we want a generation that are inward looking, only interacting with people they have met before?
It is this lack of trust that delivers absolutely boring (but very amusing in a “how ridiculous” way) springy chicken play areas.
And it’s a lack of trust that often prevents amazing “adventure” landscapes being built like the one that surrounded Queens Park Flats where I lived in Blackburn in the late 60s & early 70s. Here the generosity of an American landscape designer and the trust from Blackburn Council delivered a dream of an environment where we would clamber over the concrete running along the stream and “bomb” down that curly slide.
I was on my way into Euston Station a few weeks ago, it was another one of those lovely early summer days that characterised London this June and people were spilling out of the station and finding every space they could to sit and enjoy the warmth. There is a recently refurbished office tower with an inviting low wall around it, perfect to perch with a smoothie, if it were not fitted with so called “anti-homeless spikes”.
Shouldn’t these be called “anti-humanity” spikes?
For more reading on this phenomenon of hostile architecture see:http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jun/13/anti-homeless-spikes-hostile-architecture
And for details of “people power” in getting some of these spikes removed from central London see:
And look at the rubbish this company manufactures and the wording they use:
When we were designing our first housing project The Staiths South Bank in Gateshead, we proposed having an outdoor table tennis table in one of the first streets that was being built. We were told that it would be trashed within weeks. We argued that if you are generous and put trust in folk then you may just get repaid. Eleven years later the same table tennis table is well used but strong and healthy.
At the Staiths we also had the idea to “gift” communal barbeques in all the pocket parks across the development.
We were told by a local councillor that this was a foolish idea as the local hoodlums would barbque resident’s cats! We sent them this photoshopped image below and continued with our trusting of the od folk of Dunston, Gateshead. We have heard no reports of barbequed cats.
But the Arts Council, when researching why the Staiths was so successful and popular did name the report after a general them that ran through the response from residents who respected the trust we were putting in them.
It’s time to trust and design “in” not design out”.