Hello. Please remember that English is my second language so please be lenient.
Over breakfast, especially after a nice strong café, a number of interesting conversations develops between the guests in our bed and breakfast. The themes are extremely various and I don’t miss one if I can. Some time is difficult not to lose track of the discussions between taking back to the kitchen the finished dishes of beaked pears and bringing the frittatas or the soufflés.
Today the theme was public space and how much are we gaining or losing to commercial enterprises. About this issue I just had a wonderful experience that has consolidated my opinion that Canada really needs to rethink and refocus its policy, if there is one.
I just came back last Monday from a short stay in Spain visiting relatives and friends. It was my first time in two years since I was there last time. During my stay I visited Jerez, Malaga, Algar and my own city Seville. All of these cities are in the south, tourism is one of their mayor industries (especially in Malaga) and the sizes are from medium to small. Seville is the capital of the region Andalusia and the biggest one with not yet a million people and Algar is a little hamlet of two thousand people. But what I am about to tell affect to them all.
Focusing in Seville, I was very impressed and happy to see how the city hall has taken the duty of returning the center core of the city to the people. This has been and still is a hard battle against the will of commercial companies and business owners that wanted to keep the situation as it was. This situation was (and I am so glad to use the verb in past tense) a pitiful chaos where on the streets the car was the king or rather I should say the emperor.
It was a stressful situation where going shopping I which I could have the ability of the chameleon with one eye on the windows and the other on the cars and motorbikes. This is a medieval city where sidewalks some times are not wider than a metro and due to the traffic on the streets to avoid each other in the sidewalks some times the situation remind me of dancing salsa.
Well all of that is over. First of all the subway (more public transportation) finally has arrived. Secondly all traffic has been cut off. Only electrical cars, emergencies and cars from owners that live downtown are allow to get into the center of the city. Third, trees, fountains and art and spaces for art have been created and art that is not just about prettiness but controversial art as well that encourage conversations and thoughts from the citizens.
As a consequence the historic center have been converted into a beautiful environment where humans can walk (what a concept eh?). And that is what precisely Sevillians are doing now wondering at the same time how could they have lived in that previous situation. Cafes and bars are putting tables outside and other business are putting there merchandise out as well to be seen by waking by people without noise and smokes.
They are re-conquering their own centre despite voices from Motor Age business that don’t want to see beyond there own interests. These unscrupulous businesses refuse to see the benefits of good health of people and monuments that were suffering from air and noise pollution and stress.
If you are thinking that Canadian’s cities don’t have the same problems as little medieval European cities you are missing the point. All what my argument is about is the spirit behind the laws that force public space to be there to be enjoyed by the citizens. To act in a manner that doesn’t represent an immediate monetary profit because it is a spiritual benefit.
Think about Vancouver and the recent issue about what to do with the stadium. The most important and first thought that came out is the value of the land, how has it increased, how more can we get out of it. I can imagine real state developers and McDonalds and Starbucks watering there mouths to the point of almost drowning thinking of the benefits that can be made.
Canada should try to create more public space where art and ludic activities can be exercise by its citizens.