Wednesday 10 December 2008

The small things count

There is a wide-ranging debate going on in local goverment, sadly often not within communities, about place shaping. What is it? What does it mean? How much does it cost?

I have an increasingly clear view that it is about small things of interest, curio's, oddities and objects of distinction.
So here is an example of what I mean and why.
Just off of Elm Row in Hampstead is a small footpath that leads down to New End - it's easy to pass it and not notice it...
But in terms of making the area one of the nicest you have come across rather than a grim dark alleyway, it has a number of features.
First the use of york stone rather than concrete slabs. This means that if they crack they gain character rather than crumbling if they break.
Second is the use of old metal bollards rather than cheaper plastic or equivalents. The objective is to prevent abuse of the alley by bikes etc whilst preserving the charm.
Third is the cobblestones after the steps down to New End.
And fourth, almost forgotten is this charming and slightly unlikely plaque in the wall on the right hand side looking south east
"Three feet west from this wall is private property".
A great little feature - presumably a hangover from the days of the importance of insurance from fire damage, but a great plaque none-the-less.
And so that leads me to the definition of the place-shaping malarky - its the objects that you notice, value and appreciate in a way that is subliminal and high quality. Residents like it and it's really really good for the local area - 'bring it on, more, more' they cry.

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