The endangerment of children—that persistent theme of our lives, arts, and literature over the past twenty years—resonates so strongly because, as parents, as members of preceding generations, we look at the poisoned legacy of modern industrial society and its ills, at the world of strife and radioactivity, climatological disaster, overpopulation, and commodification, and feel guilty. As the national feeling of guilt over the extermination of the Indians led to the creation of a kind of cult of the Indian, so our children have become cult objects to us, too precious to be risked. At the same time they have become fetishes, the objects of an unhealthy and diseased fixation. And once something is fetishized, capitalism steps in and finds a way to sell it.
What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children’s imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it—nowhere that I was willing to let her go.
He drives to church in an armourplated car, escorted by 25 members of the Iraqi Army. As he preaches, he and his congregation are protected by soldiers cradling machineguns. Each week, familiar faces disappear — kidnapped, abducted or blown up by a suicide bomber. And each week politicians, generals, Muslim clerics and desperate mothers stream in to St George’s Anglican church to beg the help of an English vicar in ending violence, promoting dialogue and negotiating the release of hostages. For Canon Andrew White, fighting for peace has an all too literal meaning. His parish is the most murderous in the world: Baghdad.
The women took issue with mainstream UK initiatives to ‘design out crime’ in their dislike of the surveillance culture and technology promoted in the name of community safety. This government-promoted approach includes felling trees to ensure clear sightlines for CCTV cameras, erecting railings around steps and public monuments where people like to linger and chat, covering public spaces with ugly signage prohibiting everyday activities, or installing “mosquitos” (high-pitched sounds) to deter young people from congregating in the street.
The very presence of CCTV made women feel that an area must be unsafe. Although many wanted to see more uniformed people in public spaces, they preferred the sight of park wardens, bus conductors, and toilet attendants rather than police. Fenced-off areas and barriers made them feel trapped. Security guards, overseeing privatized public spaces, were also seen as a problem - concerned primarily with the profitability of the enterprise, and not the well-being of the visitor.
The factor that contributed most highly to women’s sense of safety was ‘a variety of/ lots of other people about’; often they would add ‘smiling people’, ‘happy people’, ‘the sound of children laughing’. WDS therefore does not support the current mainstream approach to community safety. Designers and decision-makers need to think more about how to attract a wide range of different people to come and enjoy themselves in the public spaces of towns and cities. One way of achieving this is simply through making such places beautiful - a concept rarely discussed in the context of safety. It is this quality above all which will draw people out of their homes and cars to occupy and enjoy a sense of well-being in public urban space.
Monderman certainly changed the landscape in the provincial city of Drachten, with the project that, in 2001, made his name. At the town center, in a crowded four-way intersection called the Laweiplein, Monderman removed not only the traffic lights but virtually every other traffic control. Instead of a space cluttered with poles, lights, “traffic islands,” and restrictive arrows, Monderman installed a radical kind of roundabout (a “squareabout,” in his words, because it really seemed more a town square than a traditional roundabout), marked only by a raised circle of grass in the middle, several fountains, and some very discreet indicators of the direction of traffic, which were required by law.
As I watched the intricate social ballet that occurred as cars and bikes slowed to enter the circle (pedestrians were meant to cross at crosswalks placed a bit before the intersection), Monderman performed a favorite trick. He walked, backward and with eyes closed, into the Laweiplein. The traffic made its way around him. No one honked, he wasn’t struck. Instead of a binary, mechanistic process—stop, go—the movement of traffic and pedestrians in the circle felt human and organic.
A year after the change, the results of this “extreme makeover” were striking: Not only had congestion decreased in the intersection—buses spent less time waiting to get through, for example—but there were half as many accidents, even though total car traffic was up by a third. Students from a local engineering college who studied the intersection reported that both drivers and, unusually, cyclists were using signals—of the electronic or hand variety—more often. They also found, in surveys, that residents, despite the measurable increase in safety, perceived the place to be more dangerous. This was music to Monderman’s ears. If they had not felt less secure, he said, he “would have changed it immediately.”
Unlike the Garden, the theme park is not a place where you can get hurt—or if you do, it’s not your fault, and you can sue. And to keep you from getting hurt, in the theme park, you are never alone. Not only are you accompanied by throngs of other park guests, but by omnipresent representatives of the theme park corporation, there to ensure and (if necessary) enforce enjoyment of the theme park on the owners’ terms.
—Culture Making, p.112