DenglerSW-Stromboli-20040928-1230x800 This post is inspired by a trip to a crowded grocery store. 

My Question: What happens to the Commons (particularly in urban cities) in the midst of transition/gentrification/redevelopment/upheaval?

[Context] The Commons – by whatever name – is ancient in human experience.   We gather, disperse, and gather again in “the commons,” whether at the crossroads of a village, in a grand piazza, a house of worship, a ballpark, or cyberspace.  The Commons is grounded in those things that are the heritage of all and held in trust for future generations—e.g. air, water, seeds or culture but may take the form of a small public library, a community art fair, a cafeteria, a national park, the internet, an ocean. Source.

My Answer: The Commons become a pressure point.  The grocery store, bus stop, festival and outdoor market - the places where people from different experiences, cultures, abilities, economic and educational strata converge to purchase goods, travel or consume art and culture - bubble with fiery uncertainty. Like a volcano.

My Hypothesis: The Commons are "volcanic" because the original design for that specific site didn't account for such rapid change across very distinct dimensions. The design doesn't always provide entry points for everyone, yet. Therefore, the Commons are not always spaces that alleviate the pressure of literally bumping up against someone's  humanity that may be completely different from yours.

I say this often: If you ever want to see the best and worst of us, ride a public bus. I may add grocery store to that.

Before I prescribe a host of creative public interventions for the Commons,  I want to check out my hypothesis with you.

  • What do you think?
  • Do you have "pressure point" experiences in highly trafficked public/private spaces?
  • What are some creative ways to provide entry points for everyone? To alleviate the pressure?

Share in the comments section below!