7 August 2011

SPECIAL URBAN PLACES

Scanned Image
Doug Joyce: Pasadena View





Most (if not all) cities around the world have places that possess the most sublime qualities, characteristics of tranquility and even luxury.  They furnish a counterpoint to the typical noise and activity, transporting a city dweller from the activity and noise to something like the peaceful environment of the country. They are the unexpected and sometimes surprising private and transition spaces that occur throughout the world.

These places are the perfect antidote to a busy public life, bringing peace as opposed to the hustle and bustle, bringing tranquility as opposed to being all about excitement, with the quality of quietness instead of a sonic barrage all day and part of the night.  Something quite different and unexpected to its surroundings, but greatly valued and welcomed.

For a number of years I owned a flat here in Pasadena, at the back condominium complex near the center of the city. I loved the transition as I arrived home
(I've written about it), coming through the courtyard to my front door. But I loved when I got inside of my place; looking out of the windows, there were nothing but tree leaves and branches and dappled light.  The effect was somewhat like being in a tree-fort.  No matter that the trees themselves occupied little in the way of land. No matter that what lied beyond was a series of parking lots and unattractive hind-ends of buildings. From my flat I saw nothing but nature, and on clear days, the tops of the San Gabriel Mountains against the sky. In the middle of a quite busy place, I had my own little perfect paradise.

We know that these places exist around the world.  We glimpse them.  The narrow passageway into the sunlit courtyard in the French Quarter in New Orleans. The pocket park in the middle of Manhattan. The rooftop garden above the 40th floor in Chicago or Shanghai.   

No matter how impressive or exciting a big city is, it's the places of contrast, the antedate to the activity, that make it seem complete. These are the things that make a visitor say, 'I could live here'. These are the things that make the life-long resident fall completely in love.

Providing these spaces is not the special province of the well-to-do. It is simply a matter of design. They require a lot of care and thought, but they are not necessarily expensive to do. The environment I described in Pasadena was achieved simply by leaving enough room, planting appropriate trees; not a costly endeavor. What made it possible was simply the original thought that went into the building design that allowed for such a delightful outdoor space to exist.  

The Private Place







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