Thursday, June 3, 2010

Default Street

When walking down ‘Default Street’ with its countless often irrelevant signs, the ad hoc appendages to lampposts, the mismatched and usually ugly street lighting, you do wonder what’s actually gone wrong here. It’s often a question I ponder about and usually provokes me to imagine what it could be like. But really why are our streets so damned incoherent, almost devoid of beauty at street level?

Since the explosion in personal transport modes i.e. the car, our streets have become more traffic gyratory systems than places we actually like to walk along and inturn the pavements have been reduced in width, lighting degraded to a utilitarian motorway standard and the road signage increased to confusing proportions.

Sometimes you do see pockets of sense where the power’s that be have seen the light and understood the importance of visually clean coherent street. Unfortunately this usually is more than often a token effort targeted at tourism infused areas rather than a wider ranging all encompassing urban design approach.

What is distinctly lacking are robust higher quality and better designed systems. This applies not only to its street furniture but the quality of the materials and execution of the design intent. Landscaping issues are often overlooked too or seen as an unnecessary ‘ luxury’ expense , instead we just get a few random tree’s and hope for the best. It is this lack of conviction that find most frustrating yet other European countries have a much better understanding of urbanity yet we still carry on churning out ugly lampposts, horrible railings and terrible footpaths blanketed without care or attention to our poor streetscape.

To be fair though things are improving 'a little' and I do believe or have faith that our rather ad hoc off the peg approach is becoming less prevalent but still walking down ‘Default Street’ you can see what I mean when it comes to bringing things together, the lack of finesse and clumsiness of it all and distinct lack of pride.

Some would argue that this ‘urban grit’ is our culture, that in some way’s its ugliness breeds beauty but then you could say that where has the beauty been personified? The real reason the stagnation in design of our streets is lack of investment and lack of drive or desire to design decent spaces and objects that enlighten our senses. We are given an economical answer to a lamppost for example but is it a thing of beauty? No. We need to work harder to build an environment that approaches design again as a saviour of our streetscape and our architecture and we need to invest in proper master plans that understand locality and to find the best solution , banishing the term ‘acceptable’. It’s very simple really.


  1. 'Default Street'. Love it. More needs to be done! Hear, hear.