Should this happen?
With Auckland Transport to actively engage in Speed Management Plans for both our Town Centres and residential streets (see: Auckland Transport Setting Out to Improve Our Streets – With Speed Management – FINALLY!!!) communities and businesses can finally start work in turning roads into streets. That is turning the street into the extension of our living rooms.
The term that is starting to float around in Urban Design circles (have not seen it in Urban Geography yet – but will let you know after the Geography Conference I am attending on Thursday) is called “The Third Space.”
From what I understand the First Space is our home, Second Space is work or school and the Third Space is public spaces. From an Urban Geography point of view I can see how the Third Space is coined and how it is used. Thus I agree fully streets should be seen as the extension of our Living Rooms – our Living Rooms at Home and Living Rooms out in our Centres.
Living Rooms are we people will most often entertain (given humans are social creatures) that is a given. People are also nomadic so will have a tendency to seek out and explore (often meeting others as well). Finally I am sure there is Geography of Coffee sub discipline out there (if not we need to draw one up) – that is people will often meet up over hospitality whether that be coffee, tea, lunch or even beer. Put all this together and a definite Urban Geography and Urban Design commonality arises: living spaces are often very close to places of hospitality whether it be the kitchen and living room or the Town Square and cafes.
We know where our living spaces are in residential and Town Centre areas the question is how do we extend them out into true living spaces?
From Streets Omn:
“On the Street Where You Live” is a song by Frederick Loewe with lyrics by Jay Alan Lerner, from the 1956 Broadway musical “My Fair Lady.”
Considered in another context, we recognize almost all of us live in places facing a street functioning in a practical role providing a means of travel to connect ourselves with the world around us. But for the purposes of this writing, for many of us in city neighborhoods, the street is where we live and the street, to some extent, defines who we are. Our streets form our communities where we mingle with our neighbors and share various collective values. We take for granted that these roles are our variation of citizenry.
The post continues on about the history of streets where:
- prior to the 19th Century they were places of interaction and extensions of living space,
- in the 19th Century to around the 1950’s the advent of the railway and heavy industry meant both were often very close to residential areas (thus minimising chances of social interaction),
- deindustralisation happening from the 1950’s until the 1990’s (but then came the road and the car isolating us even further from public spaces)
- finally the 21st Century where people and cities are taking back the streets from roads and cars to turn them back into public spaces – living spaces again.
The question is are you likely to “entertain” or “live” in a space where cars are roaring by letting off noise and noxious gasses whether it be a residential street or a Town Centre street? I highly doubt it and the ultimate consequence is either social exclusion (isolation or sedimentary activities) which present mental and physical health issues or excessive commuting to a place of social interaction – which in itself creates a negative feedback loop of areas not being attractive as living spaces.
But if speed limits were reduced in residential streets to say 30km/h with Town Centre streets getting the same treatment AND a few of them removing cars outright (or turned into Transit Malls if transit does run through the Centre) then a major step into transforming roads back into streets – extensions of living rooms/spaces has been taken. From there tactical urbanism like parklets, kerb build outs etc can be built to make the living room even more attractive (just as we furnish and decorate our own living rooms at home and a cafe does in a town centre).
Remember positive living spaces – in this case our streets can promote social inclusion while cutting down excessive commuting to other Third Space places. Strong Local cohesion promotes strong Local Community Health.
Should our streets become extensions of living rooms – that is our public Third Space?
And if you are wondering I try to encourage this in Cities Skylines with my street designs: