Cities should never be judged by their girth, by the amount of time it takes to cross from one suburb to another. They should not be judged by vast motorways going through their hearts or by the numbers who pound the pavements getting to and fro.
Instead, cities should be judged by the width of their vision; of the tallness of their dreams; of the extent of their capacity to be moulded to suit the needs of those who use them; Cities should be places that bring out the best in people; that channel their flow in ways that encourage only the best interaction.
Cities need the air of human life to be fully functional. Their hearts need to have the oxygen of people living real lives in the city centre. People who have skin in the game of the city.
Cities and public spaces should be more than just funnelling thousands and thousands of people past one phone shop and sneaker shop after another. Cities should be places where people can stride or shuffle or hop and yet not incur the wrath of loose paving stones or warped bollards.
They should be places that allow people to sit or stand, that allow everyone an equitable chance at enjoying. Already the Westend has had a trial pedestrianisation last weekend and the feedback is encouraging.
Cities worldwide are becoming homogenized, copycat line-ups of brands, so it is important that cities take any opportunity they can to rebrand themselves, because in striving to be like everywhere else, they lose their identity and uniqueness.
At the moment, where we walk and cycle and drive is predetermined by funnels — cajoling us to move this way and that; channeling our flow to ways that suit antiquated ideas.
Next week Galway City Council is asking the public to take part in a ‘pop up’ consultation on Galway’s streets and public spaces and to hear proposals for developing the city.
The ‘pop up’ consultation takes place on Shop Street on Friday September 6 from 3pm to 6pm and on Saturday 7 from 11am to 4pm. Members of the public are encouraged to take part and give their views and ideas. But don’t fret, you can still make your voice heard
A Public Realm Strategy has been prepared by Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners, Dermot Foley Landscape Architects and TOBIN Engineering, commissioned by Galway City Council. “The strategy provides a vision of place, design guidance and outline project proposals to improve Galway’s streets and public spaces,” said a spokesperson for City Hall.
Views on future implementation of the strategy can be made at the ‘pop up’ consultation event and at any time to September 30 to the Senior Planner, Planning Department, City Hall, College Road, Galway or by e-mail to [email protected]. For more information see www.galwaycity.ie/public-realm-strategy
Over the next few years, the shape of Galway city centre will change; the flows will be different, the routes change with the development of Nuns’ Island and Bonham Quay and eventually the Ceannt Quarter. All creating new public spaces for a new generation.
So it is important we have our say. Let us take the opportunity to use architecture to create bonds between people who live in cities, and even use it to recover the communities that used to exist.