Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quality of life

I like to think that this blog, and what I have been doing, is all about improving the quality of life of people who live, work or travel through the inner west of Sydney. Quality of life can be measured by many different factors - air quality, traffic congestion, living space, quality of schools and so on - but one that seems to get a lower priority is our built environment.

Heritage buildings get a lot of attention, because they are seen as lending a certain tone to an area. But rubbish bins, bus stops, street signage and the paving materials used in footpaths all contribute in their own way to how an area looks and feels. Designers and architects may go to a great deal of trouble to select a certain light fitting or doorway or type of granite in order to give a room, or a building or a precinct a certain character.

A lot of money is spent on improving our private spaces - renovating kitchens and bathrooms and polishing floorboards, and good designs are celebrated and advertised through various TV programs (such as renovation shows or series in historical buildings), and through the print media via many magazines, such as Home Beautiful, Vogue Living and so on.

Less thought, care and attention is given to our public spaces, which would seem odd to earlier designers such as Bradfield, who did all they could to ensure that their creations, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, would have a lasting visual impact on our city. The design of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as much as its size, is what helps it to put Sydney on the world map.

I don't know much about how to design a better looking bus stop, but I do know how to make it a visual horror show. That's easy - cover it in graffiti and scratches, let the paint peel off the seats and walls, allow any lighting to fail or be smashed and not replaced, and allow the area to be covered in discarded rubbish.

Knowing that, even if I don't know how to turn a bus stop into a work of art, I at least know how to make it as minimally ugly as possible. Clean it. Paint it. Look after it. Go past every now and then and check on it and care for it.

No comments: