Friday, March 24, 2006

Soul lost for a four minute run.

I was thinking about this the other day... what with the Commonwealth Games on and all. How big events like this can change our cities, propose huge costs as well as profits yada yada yada. We always think about whats going to happen to these mega structures after the events as its quite unlikely that another big sporting event is going to be held in the same country in the very near future.. But whats lost? What used to be a quiet green area on the outskirts of the city becomes a graveyard town of, well, olympic proportions-no? (oh bad joke, I know)

So I came across this article today, and it made a lot of sense. Ultimately, it made me sad really thinking about all those miles of graffiti lost. You can argue until you were blue in the face and tell me that graffiti is vandalism. Granted there is some shoddy graffiti art out there, in my opinion that is, but thats the beauty of it-no? Can we not wabi-sabi our ways into beautiful, flawed, human cities? (thanks Kyle!) I mean, there are some God AWFUL buildings being built - that are a much worse eye-sore than some kids' scribblings on the wall..surely?! Do we go up to the construction workers and architects while they are being built and go -erm- that stinks, get lost. Ok ok ok so there are planning authorities to do all that, but the system is flawed - just look at the evidence! Ok so you can't REALLY stop a building from going up cos some dude in his seat at the planning office reckons its ugly. But what happened to transparency? What happened to oh I dunno, asking your neighbour whether he minds that you build some Romanesque monstrosity to shelter your punto from the sun. Its hard because everyone's tastes really are different, and if you did try and get everyones opinion on a building nothing would get built, and what did - would probably be so boring, that no one would notice it was up anyway. Oh the neverending debate in my head..

But I digress..

Graffiti. If you put up a brand new building that was pristine white and flawless then I can totally understand that if someone came and chucked a load of paint over it - you'd be pretty peeved. No no, scratch the flawless bit out- just a 'new' building - you'd be pissed. Which is fair enough really. BUt the back alleys and those hard to reach walls could do with an aerosol filled breath of fresh paint! What harm is it doing-really?

There's a fuzzy line between vandalism and graffiti but to attack it with your pots of beige and gray paint and zero tolerance is not the way to go. Take Singapore for example- perfectly pruned tree lined streets and lush greenery, beautifully maintained buildings, roads and pathways - someone obviously wants to keep it that way. So there's a giant park in Somerset being built where Graffiti art can be produced 'safely'. Ok, so its totally taking the sprit out of the quick-grab-yer-can-and-stencil-the-bugger approach, but its something. The article talks about low tolerance areas which I think are brilliant - basically the parts of the city which might want/need/can't help but have a little street art are left to do their own thing.

The stadium back home was built for the SEA Games - which caters nicely for big events and the like. Though the area is a tarmac induced coma laying there inanimate and lifeless the rest of the time. You ask- what should have been done then smart arse? Me? I probably would have done the same thing, yank some trees out of the ground and plonk in some massive concrete jalopy with some hint of 'ethnic' architecture. Oh spiel spiel spiel. Having said that though, that area was always that way so its fate was sealed from the word go.

Perhaps a more sensetive approach (and I'm thinking this with home in mind) would have been to incorporate a smaller, less ambitious area of a human scale which would house the shops and cafes etc during the big event which would ultimately serve the surrounding community post event. I understand that the area is relatively lively actually before sunset but as soon as walks have been walked and laps have been swum everyone jumps in their cars and heads on home. Leaving the place once again an intimidating void.

Ripping out the old to slot in the new is part of the business of being an architect - or so I'm told. What seems evident is that town planning and architecture is approached in two ways especially in the Far East and Australia or at least in what I've seen of it. The first being a slash and burn one where everything is straightened out and built skywards a la Americano where you have very distinctive quarters and what doesn't quite fit gets a face-off with the demolition man. A little Disney, a little ladies who lunch. Then there's the polar opposite where you can go to your fancy glass fronted shopping complex and order a latte then go next door to see what is the catch of the day, where as soon as you walk outside you are hit by lack of cover from the sun and the smoke from the streetside barbeque chokes you. A little rojak, a little Chainsaw Massacre. Each with its own pros and cons although I have to say that the chaos of the rojak towns and cities seem somewhat more appealing than Truman Show suburbia. In that way Singapore has a steady balance of the two if a little disproportionately Truman in some cases, where there are pockets of grit and actual humans which bring the city back to life under the cover of skyscrapers.

Heres a website with some of the newly released Darling Harbour entries for your viewing pleasure. Love the 70184 drawings - just a little more real than the 'photo realism' that I despise but thats a whole new entry on its own xxW


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