The Good, the Bad and the Yogi

If you were following Twitter the other night, you may have seen yet another transgression against the public space at Lansdowne. The Citizen’s David Reevely (who found some drivers behaving badly the other week), was at the park and found the Aberdeen Plaza closed off so that it could be used for diplomat parking. (This is nothing against diplomats, per se, but there’s clearly a class issue going on.)

There are many unfixable problems with Lansdowne Park. It was a severely flawed design, and the public and private realm were very poorly integrated (in that they pretty much weren’t). However, Aberdeen Plaza is the one huge problem that could be easily fixed. First, either close off traffic at Lansdowne or close off the strip of “street” between the plaza and the pavilion. Either way, the Aberdeen Pavilion will actually be connected to the Aberdeen Plaza. It’ll be a much better situation.

Second, put some damned chairs and tables there, and add some awnings, umbrellas or canopies to offer a bit of shade. Hell, maybe even put in some strips of grass. But, of course, if you did anything to make the plaza particularly enticing, it couldn’t be turned into parking at a moment’s notice, and the city and our leaders won’t have that.

Reevely happened to find the mayor coming out of the VIP event. With his usual petulance, our worship chastised Reevely–a reporter, resident and neighbour to Lansdowne–for caring about the bastardization of public space.

I miss Rebecca Pyrah.

The thing of it all is, I didn’t want to write a Lansdowne-bashing post (you’ll have to wait until the next issue of the Glebe Report to hear my naked, undiluted anger at the development). No, I wanted to write about something good happening at Lansdowne, so that’s what I’m going to do now.

I was at Lansdowne Saturday evening. This was during a Yoga Festival. Sure, there were some annoying things going on; some cars were parked in pedestrian areas; there were too many ugly barricades guarding against more cars parking in pedestrian areas; the entire Great Lawn did not to be fenced off for what was a relatively tiny yoga session, but…

…This was Lansdowne as it was supposed to be. All those irritants (along with the usual ones of too many cars and a stupid valet service) were quite minor compared to what was actually going on.

The Aberdeen Plaza was busy. Holy shit, I’m not telling a lie, it was actually busy. And I mean, truly busy, not just full of cars. Many groups of people were walking around, chatting. Some had stopped and were just enjoying the evening. People were spilling out into the shared “Pedestrian Priority Zones”, and, ya know, cars weren’t totally dominating the place.

People were popping in and out of restaurants and cafes. People were heading to the movies. I’m sure there were people doing some shopping. It was great.

I was there with my daughter, who wanted to go to the play structure. It was pretty full…and full of little kids, not adults goofing around and breaking things, not teenagers dominating a child’s play structure, not skateboarders bored of the skatepark (which, thankfully, does not happen too often).

The skatepark, of course, was full, as it always is. So, to, the basketball courts, which have clearly become a favoured attraction.

After playing on the big green tubular monolith, my daughter wanted to head over to the water plaza. It wasn’t really hot that night, but it was warm and it’s always fun running through sprinklers, amirite? So she played, as did a bunch of other kids. Adults came and sat for a bit, and chatted. There were rollerbladers going by. There were people on bikes. And everyone was moving at a reasonable pace. Everyone had space to do things. Except for the handful of cars, there was room for everyone (except on the lawn, but oh well).

And everything was happening. There was a festival, and that was clearly a big draw. There were people who were coming for the commercial attractions. There were tons of people just interested in the public realm. And everybody moved through the park. And the different users were intertwined, to an extent. Activities weren’t silo-ed off. There wasn’t the usual segregation of users (except, again, for the lawn, but, again, oh well).

I have been going to Lansdowne since the day it opened, literally. I am there somewhere between three and ten times per week (because no matter how bad it is, it offers some utility, and my eldest daughter has developed an emotional attachment to the place).

I have never–never–seen Lansdowne like this before.

This is the only time Lansdowne has ever lived up to its vision. This is the only day I have ever seen it be what it really should be. One day out of a thousand. I guess it’s something.

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One thought on “The Good, the Bad and the Yogi

  1. I’ve seen that Aberdeen Square and the park work well a few times, more and more in recent months. My son loves the green tubular monstrosity, and it’s often packed with dozens of kids when I’ve been there. As far as I’m concerned, if they do two things, Aberdeen Sq will be just as good of a public space as anywhere in Canada

    1. Shut one of the “streets” that border the square to cars, either the one on the north edge (next to the cattle castle), or on the south edge (next to the theatre).

    2. Put a fountain, or a sculpture, or something, anything, in the middle of that space to indicate that it’s not a parking lot. It doesn’t even have to be nice. Those boards with pictures of the history of lansdowne did a pretty good job when they occupied the space.

    Do those two things, and it’ll be the public space that was envisioned at the outset.

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