Public Space Essays

Rather, in the words of poet and river champion Lewis Mac Adams, the banks of the L. River today host a “vibrant community of artists, musicians, grandchildren, and grandparents, with cheap date nights, beanbag throws, and bicycle repairs.” Revivals inspired by grassroots activism often grow into something bigger than the original organizers imagined.I love strolling the High Line park in New York—a place that started as a campaign by two West Side residents to restore a dilapidated elevated rail line in the Meatpacking District, and has become one of the world’s most heavily designed, endowed, and visited public spaces. River project has provoked controversy—it doesn’t help that he referred to the long-term activists as complainers or “worker bees” who should simply toe the line and follow his lead.

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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.

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.

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.

The Ugly Indian started with one cleanup in Bangalore, and spread to hundreds of spotfixes across India and now Pakistan. The Ugly Indian cleverly exploits traditional and modern Indian culture.

The organizers invite housemaids—the very ones who take out the trash and dump it in public spaces—to create traditional rice flour drawings on the spotfix sites for people to enjoy.

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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