Space is all around us - or was until we found a way of filling it and I am conscious of the gradual erosion of the concept of 'public space'. I sense I am not alone in believing that such space is vital to the health of a city and I view with increasingly concern the way our open spaces are being seen as potential venues to be filled. As Andrew Neather commented in Friday's Evening Standard:
' ... public parks aren't there to make money. The assumption that they should be revenue-generating assets is part of the same bogus imported corporate culture that bankrupts public hospitals and awards bonuses to civil servants just for doing their jobs. These spaces exist as a public service — and one of the cheapest to run at that. London’s parks are one of its great glories, their lush greenery the best upside to the rain. They shouldn’t need to pay their way like some shabby car park.'
But the problem doesn't just affect our Parks. Often Trafalgar Square is being seen as yet another entertainment venue. Yet, isn't there some value in guarding the space and resisting the temptation to see space as of no meaning in our increasingly packed city? Do we see everything as having potential to be 'used', or is there value in areas - places and spaces - which have no other value than giving us a sense of space? Once space is used for a specific, particular purpose it ceases to be public and those who are attracted clearly sense an ownership of that space to the point that they cannot recognise the rights of others (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/hard-rock-calling-fans-complain-as-volume-is-turned-down-for-paul-simons-hyde-park-gig-7945589.html)
In space things 'happen'. Life and creativity emerge. Once space is occupied it ceases to be open but has a purpose - i.e. to be the place where something emerges. Space is also related to silence and, whilst much space in our cities is affected by noise, it is peripheral rather than focal. Allied to our encroachment on physical space is our growing addiction to noise. Rather than allowing ourselves to be present to the sounds around us (no matter how disturbing) there seems to be a growing desire to restrict ourselves to the noises we choose to hear on our i-phones and so are in danger of losing connection to the wider world around us and what it may have to communicate to us. Did Eliot get it right when he wrote:
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about ... (East Coker)
It seems that Mayor Boris Johnson has decided London is fair game for exploitation, for that is what it seems to me. Space is of little value and our - often unrealised - primal need for no-thing is ignored. At our peril, I fear.