By Tyler Falk
Posting in Cities
Occupy DC protesters turned a sleepy park into a lively replica city. Find out how good design made it possible.
In Washington, DC's McPherson Square, Occupy Wall Street protesters have created a mini city complete with unique neighborhoods, a main street, and zoning for residential and public space.
The protesters have brought this area in the urban core to life.
"In a city that has struggled to sustain vibrant urban enclaves, the anti-consumers protesters have in fact created exactly what many urban planners strive for: a feeling of ownership, engagement, and spontaneous adaptation," a Washington Post video describes the encampment. Check out video below:
But all public spaces are not created equal. Lydia Depillis at Washington City Paper argues that Occupy DC protests have had very different results because of the design of the public space they occupy.
Consider McPherson Square. Its layout mimics the form of a city: There’s more earth than concrete, which allows a separation between the “residential” areas and paved spaces for transit and discussion. The mature trees serve as landmarks—“Meet by that oak,” you might say—and as shelter from both the sun and the rain. It’s surrounded by restaurants, residences, hotels, and offices that are all open to the street, creating a natural circulation of people who stop and stay a while on their way to lunch or appointments or the Metro.
On the other hand, the site of the other Occupy DC protest was nowhere near as vibrant as McPherson Square because of the design of the space.
Freedom Plaza, despite nearly indistinguishable ideology and infrastructure, is a dramatically different environment. ... Freedom Plaza, built in 1980 to mimic the original plan of Washington, is totally inhospitable. There’s no place to sit, with only the barest excuse for a bench around the edges. Grassy spaces are microscopic, forcing tents to bleed out onto the concrete. Communal services, like food, medical supplies, and media, are clustered in a corner; the central walkway between them is narrow and divided by a staircase, which makes it difficult to navigate. There’s a somewhat awkward segregation between the occupiers and the homeless, who cluster in a walled-off circle of benches on the northeast corner, rather than integrating with the crowds the way they do on McPherson Square.
It's a great micro view of how our cities play out on a macro scale. Those cities that have designs with amenities close to where people live, along with a mix of housing, office space, and retail in close proximity have vibrant communities. But cities that are suckers for cul-de-sac and don't easily connect people to the places that frequent, well they're more Freedom Plaza cities.
Nov 13, 2011
...for the silliest post of the week. The more the Progressives try to romanticize the "occupy" people, the funner it all gets. They really are the gift that keeps on giving. There is nothing sustainable here. They still consume, and yet produce nothing. They can only survive there as long as the surrounding society keeps feeding them, and regardless of the flowery rhetoric, it's just a matter of time before their "mini city" becomes uninhabitable. I don't know why local officials in many cities keep chasing them out so they can "clean" the parks. Just let them become fetid until they are forced to leave on their own. Oh, and when I was a child in the Boy Scouts, we figured out how to "organize" such encampments all by ourselves. Except we did it in a far less comfortable setting; the actual wilderness, and we cleaned up after ourselves. I doubt must of these supposed "adults" could survive what we did as a matter of routine repeatedly every year. I loved the close-up of the smoking chick. How can her second-hand smoke not infect others when living in such close quarters? Or does she not care? Why doesn't the "community" correct her?
They dug latrine trenches in Portland. Shrubs are dying in many of the occupied parks because of people using them for toilets. The Wall St mob had a small gray water recycling system they were running urine through and using it to water the parks plants. Now the plants are dying. In Boston they did over $50,000 worth of damage in just 3 hours to a new park built this past spring. The damage would have been far worse, but police chased them out before they could do more damage. They were on orders of the mayor to protect the new park. The formerly occupied parks being cleaned up this week have been open sewers loaded with, among other things, improperly disposed medical waste from their on site 'clinics'. I doubt any lame efforts at reseeding will ever come close to repairing the damage they have done. You cannot just throw grass seed on compacted soil and expect it to grow.
The Occupiers are actually very concerned with maintaining the park. There's a sanitation committee to take care of trash, and I believe there are several plans to make sure that they don't do any damage to McPherson (other than killing the grass, which they've already re-seeded once and are planning to do it again).
Those neat rows of tents you admire at McPherson Square are killing the grass. Those majestic oak trees are slowly being killed by all of the waste products being dumped into the soil around them. The once green and lush park will be a wasteland of dirt when they leave. Once the tents are removed the public will find the latrine holes dug by the occupiers. The camp fire pits will be visable. Will anyone in the Occupy movement be around to fix the damage? I doubt it.
It's an interesting study in how people can make an area come together with a certain degree of organization but the romantic notion that living right next to where you work, eat and play is not everyones idea of what makes a great community. It's generally assumed that those who live further out leave a larger footprint since we're using more resources to support our lifestyle. Sorry but this isn't always the case. I live in the real country yet I burn less fuel for my vans than most people I know who live in town since I only go to town when I really need to and then make every trip count. I can grow a real garden and actually can/freeze the bounties that come forth. Those who live further away are usually more self reliant and make less do more. Meanwhile I'd like to know how many batteries are being eaten, additional trash created from prepared foods and take out along with sanitary conditions in these tent cities? Perhaps these people think they're enforcing their views to the Wall Street gang as they zip by in their limo's, but do you think they honestly care for one second? It's only an eyesore they ignore. The morality of what they're saying is correct but the actual change they're wanting is doubtful. In other countries who live like this we feel pity. Here it's just people talking yet no one really listening.