David Engwicht is giving a series of workshops in New Zealand in March 2011.
The workshops are a little pricey so I fully recommend reading his books if you can’t get along to his talks. I was lucky enough to attend one in Wellington through my work at Living Streets Aotearoa. I first encountered David’s work through his books Street Reclaiming: Creating livable streets and vibrant communities, and Mental speed bumps: the smarter way to tame traffic.
David talks about the street as a historical site of human interaction, and not just a place for vehicle traffic which has taken over in recent times. He talks about communities reclaiming their streets as part of the public realm, with strong emphasis on freedom to express a sense of home, a sense that ‘people live here’ in all the creative, humorous, low cost yet generous ways humans can think of. He illustrates with wonderful examples of community art/ interventions that not only provide opportunities for local residents to engage and communicate with neighbours, but also has the magical effect of slowing down traffic on residential streets, making them more pleasant to live on.
All kinds of activities can improve safety and atmosphere of local streets, from simply sitting out the front of your house to staging a street party. The key is engagement – in any form – with the place you live in.
David often talks about the interaction between art and traffic, something I hope to expand on with my upcoming Masters study. After decades of shying away from any ‘dangerous distractions’ on boring roads you want to speed through, we are now seeing more art and design detail on streets and motorways in New Zealand. Is this a conscious effort to improve safety, value and sense of place? Are traffic engineers the curators of this new art venue? Do people walk more in creative street environments? I plan to find out…
Notes and further links:
David Engwicht is the founder of the Creative Communities organisation, and based in Australia.
book review of Reclaiming our Cities and Towns: Better living with less traffic.
More detail about David Engwicht and his work can be found here at the Project for Public Spaces website.
D. E. quote: “The city is an invention to maximize exchange and minimize travel”
a quick note on Ghost Bikes:
As discussed in NZ media lately – a more sombre example of community intervention in the street scape is the idea of “ghost bikes“, to make places where cyclists have died in collisions in unsafe conditions. This is a way for family and friends to communicate their loss to the community, and remind drivers to be mindful of bikes. Councils are wary of supporting these bikes in case people start installing ghost cars, or ghost pedestrians, eventually filling up the roadsides with spectres. I think they are missing the point of the instantaneous response to something that is growing more and more important to New Zealanders right now – that is safety for all road users. A few ghost bikes is enough to bring this to the attention of the media and hopefully the majority of road users.