Parks: Case study one, Paris
In paris a few years back, the Meat Market in the north of the city (Londoners: think Smithfields with a faint whiff of garlic) is starting to feel a bit outlived.
The meat industry moves it’s base further afield leaving behind a 50 hectare space, slightly reddened by blood and perhaps a bit smelly.
What do those carefree Parisians think to do with this Land?
They turn it into a park and give it back to the city! That’s really what thay did.
But not just any old park, of no. Forget swings and slides and a duck pond. These are Parisians afterall.
This place ends up being a park that challenges our very conceptions of what a park is. (Typially the French approach to building things is ‘this works in practice, but will it work in theory?’.)
They kept the grand cast iron structure of the main meat hall, renovated it and turned it into a concert space.
The area is now called Parc de la Villette and is home to the Paris Science Museum, a giant chromium sphere and a WW2 submarine, amongst many other things.
(tip for visitors, the junction of two canals in the centre of the park makes for some spectacular rainbows)
Read more about the park here www.villette.com
Case study two, London.
So to London. Place, Spitalfields Market. An old market hall, lovely cast iron structure, like the meat market in Paris.
The place is much loved by tourists and Londoners alike, the place still functions as an old style market where independent traders can afford small spaces to sell their goods.
The market and surrounding streets have bags of charm and the place has a warm and distinctive ambience; the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
A very similar situation to the French Meat Market, it needs to be persevered and, most importantly, belong to the people.
Every sane person in London agrees.
But sadly the market has been bought up by big business. Part of it will remain a ‘retail space’ but will be modernised; rents for the new two-storey units will be priced at levels only the likes of Starbucks and Gap can afford.
Again the small trader is beaten down. The rest of the land becomes a place separate from the community it once belonged to.
So effectively this is an act of mass destruction of our heritage. It’s aslo short-term in vision, adds nothing and creates a uniformity that, I believe, is making Britian just a bit pointless.
It is typical, especially of London, to insist every square cm of land makes a profit. When say a brownfield site is sold, there is never an assumption it might be used for the something as ‘unproductive’ as apark.
It’s an approach that leads to the cultural death of a city.
Read more about our wonderful sense of civic pride here: www.smut.org.uk