Against regulations

There was this article that caught my eye a bit ago about whether planning as a profession is growing obsolete.  “In the beginning” urban planning was the means of ameliorating the health conditions of the community; of making better living areas for people. Zone out noxious uses near residential areas. Allow for sunlight to infiltrate living spaces. Makes sense, really. However, somewhere along the way, some urban planners are losing the plot. One need only look at the rise of sprawl or the existence of Las Vegas. I think there is a disconnect as costs and benefits are calculated without recognising the subjective and contextual nature of healthy and stimulating places. With that little rant, I bring you this week’s book: A bus called heaven by Bob Graham.

A hollowed out bus appears, abandoned on little Stella’s street. Its appearance ignites a series of small actions of camaraderie. The bus is pushed and tugged into Stella’s front garden. Neighbours spend the next days cleaning and decorating it with donated furniture. A crew of taggers are commissioned to paint the bus. The transformed bus hosts meetings, shows movies  and plays music. The neighbourhood takes ownership of Heaven. Until the tow truck arrives.

“It’s against regulations” said the driver. “This bus is causing an obstruction.”

The bus is towed to the boneyard destined for the CRUSHER. With a name like Heaven, you know this story will end well. Thus, I will not spoil the ending completely for you. Know that Stella does save the bus and the bus finds a home in the allotment behind Stella’s house.

While people and not buildings create a community, planners can help facilitate the process. Don’t make it so difficult for people to come together. When people invest mentally, physically and emotionally in something, it’s probably good to acknowledge and listen. Check if regulations obstruct the cultivation of wonder and connection. Anklebiter 1 loved the boneyard/junkyard. “Look at all the lorries. It now has a bus.” Sigh. But here’s where it gets interesting. I tried to do the mum thing and talk about the importance of saving the bus. “You wouldn’t want your playground taken away would you?” Anklebiter 1 then pipes up and points to the boneyard. “But I can play on the bus AND on the lorries.”

Eh, it’s about perspective isn’t it.

(Photo by Vivian Romero from the book A bus called Heaven, Bob Graham)

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Vivian Romero

I want to activate the urban imagined: stimulating, healthy and sustainable spaces for all (especially the young and young at heart).

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