Thursday, 29 March 2012

Five ideas for Freo from...Berlin

Dean Cracknell is the author of this post. He is a Freo devotee dedicated to creating interesting, diverse places for people and is a guest contributor to The Fremantle Doctor blog. 

Dean can be followed on Twitter by checking out: @city_pragmatist

Berlin is widely regarded as one of the coolest cities in the world. Artists, architects and creative businesses flock to Berlin from all over the world, attracted to its liberal, bohemian and inexpensive charm. The good news is that Freo shares some of Berlin’s bohemian feel. So what can Fremantle learn this wonderful city?

Here are some of my ideas (check out the photo below) -

Five ideas for Freo from...Berlin

Distinctive corner features

The building in the photo above really adds a presence to the street. One of the interesting things about it for me is the distinctive corner feature. Corners are important in urban design terms because they are so visible. They frame public spaces and if they are memorable, help people find their way around a city. Architects traditionally made building corners a highlight of their designs. Distinctive corner features are found on many older buildings across Freo – check them out next time you are wandering around the west end.

One way of reinforcing the character of Freo would be to make new developments provide a modern interpretation of the corner feature.

Human scale building facades

Human scale refers to development that relates well to surrounding public spaces and does not overawe passing pedestrians. The ideal height for building facades depends on a number of factors, including the width of the street and the articulation of the building (discussed below).

Human scale usually refers to facade heights of between 2 to 6 storeys.

Large street trees

Street trees soften streetscapes, provide shade and encourage pedestrians. It seems that street trees were forgotten about and not planted for a long time throughout Perth and Fremantle. Only recently have we realised the importance of trees to urban placemaking. It would be very difficult to find a comfortable urban space that does not have at least some greenery in it. The more the better!

Articulated facades

Articulated facades have lots of detail, style and intricate features. Traditional Australian architecture often included elaborate detail. Articulating facades is important as people usually like and respond to difference, colour and detail. Interesting and articulated building facades can also reduce the visual impact of the height of a building.

Balconies for street interaction

Balconies and windows provide opportunities for passive surveillance over streets. Passive surveillance aims to create a perception that people are or could be watching over a space, which can deter crime and anti-social behaviour. Criminal and anti-social activity usually gravitates to areas that are out of the way and where they are less likely to be seen. Streets and urban spaces will not be well used unless people feel safe and balconies help achieve this.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mini Freo monuments III

I think it's time for another edition of mini Freo monuments.

So far we've had blue doors, chalkboards and diver statues (click here) in my first edition and hanging shoes, the smells of Kakulas Sisters and a Kings Square statue (click here) in my second edition.

Here are three more mini Freo monuments.

Hobbit hole near the Round House

Imagine if this little hobbit hole had a door knob on it somewhere? 

Hobbit hole near the Round House

Bubba, my four year old nephew, can't resist letting his imagination run wild at what worlds could possibly exist behind this hobbit hole. 

X marks the spot

Along the lines of the hobbit hole, if you didn't know the purpose of this big red X on High Street you could have some serious fun speculating. Buried treasure? The site of a first kiss? A drop-off point for secret documents? Anything is possible.

X marks the spot

Window display at Bill's Second Hand books

The window displays at Bill's are always artful, and show off his encyclopediac knowledge of books. After you get tired of coming up with ideas for the red X, nip into Bill's and test him out. He's better than Google.

Bill's Second Hand books

That's it for this edition of mini Freo monuments.

Friday, 23 March 2012

5 reasons to visit...Point Street

I thought that I'd give myself a challenge and attempt to find five reasons for visiting Point Street.

Lets see what I came up with:

Vortex of concrete
I started my tour at the intersection of Point Street and Cantonment Street. Sauntering past the entrance of the Point Street carpark, I was struck by the notion that a reason for visiting Point Street could be to see some terrible concrete monoliths. If nothing else, it will save you ever having to visit any of Russia's grimmer areas to experience what architecture under Soviet rule was like.

Point Street carpark...look out for the vortex of concrete
I'd suggest that if you stand in just the right spot a vortex would open to another world where the concrete gods are waiting to resume their rightful place. (But make sure you know the steps to the East End Shuffle if you hang around here for any length of time. It came in handy for me.)

MacQueen Books
MacQueen Books is a prime site for fossicking. It's relatively new to the area, having arrived in 2011, and is worth a look.

MacQueen books
My wife was keen to point out that there were some interesting bags being sold next door.

Bags being sold next door to MacQueen books

The Butcher Shop
Another reason to visit Point Street is The Butcher Shop. Being neither remotely artistic nor cool, I'd never heard of it before, but it sells specialist art supplies, design books, clothes and a few other colourful bits and pieces. It was so appealing I regretted for a minute not trying harder at art classes at school, until I saw just how much good quality art materials set you back.

Interesting design books at The Butcher Shop

Art supplies at The Butcher Shop
Next door to The Butcher Shop is Ferrari Formal Wear on one side, and the skate shop Momentum on the other (handily proximate for the skaters at the Woolstores), whilst Games World sits opposite. For a short and under-utilised street, Point Street sure does cater for young males with admirable thoroughness.

A little-known gem, Vivisien alone makes Point Street deserving of a visit. Check it out for something a bit different.

Vivisen on Point Street

Terrace houses
There are four beautiful, old style terrace houses marooned amongst the concrete at the eastern end of Point Street. There's something quietly tragic about these lovely upright townhouses. Their presence is at once both something to be grateful for as well as a reminder of loss. They paint a small picture of what Freo's East End might have looked like before the awful redevelopment that took place post World War II.

I really like the attention to detail. For example, the lacy fretwork on the verandahs and balconies reflect an era where buildings were built up to a standard.

Terrace housing on Point Street, built up to a standard
Cool details on the Terrac houses on Point Street
Well, that's about it for Point Street.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Freo Quick Shot: Macaron Day Fremantle

Today, all around the world, it is Macaron Day.

Macaron shop in the Fremantle Markets
I love these tasty little treats. The last time my wife and I visited Paris, the macaron industry experienced a huge boom in proportion to my waist measurement.

On the weekend, I was delighted when I stumbled across a brand new addition to the Fremantle Markets - our own exclusive macaron shop.

I was ready to take these home...more from the macaron shop in the Fremantle Markets
So this weekend do yourself a favour and check out these little morsels of goodness.

For  a great Parisian blog click here

Monday, 19 March 2012

Shopping for Dads in Freo

I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds shopping for men difficult.

Take my dad, for example. For years, when asked what he wants for his birthday or Christmas, he replies with "I don't want anything."

Firstly, does he think he's being helpful with that statement? We both know I have to get him something, that I can't give him just a card for his sixtieth. If my old friend Captain Translator were to help unpack that statement, I think we'd find out my dad was actually saying something like this:

"Years of being given crappy homemade ashtrays when I don't even smoke have embittered me towards this whole process. Of course there's plenty I want, but we both know you're going to to get me socks. You know what I would really like? How about you expend a bit of mental energy and come up with something yourself for once? Plus, I enjoy being difficult now that I'm getting older. So bugger off and figure it out yourself, son."

The problem is, though, that men tend to have more expensive hobbies. The females in my immediate circle will all satisfied with some sort of knick-knack, on the basis that so long as it's pretty it doesn't have to be useful. These are people who, even though they have more than enough teacups for drinking purposes, will keep buying more because they like the patterns.

But if I gave my father a teacup, he'd give me a look that I wouldn't need Captain Translator to tell me meant "Son, I've already got two mugs. What am I going to do with this one? Next year, just get me socks."

So here are my thoughts on the thorny subject of shopping in Freo for dads...

The Mousetrap (Fremantle Markets)

I read recently that eating cheese gives many men an endorphin release. (Women are more likely to get the same effect from chocolate.) So for your old man's next birthday, pop down to The Mousetrap in the Freo Markets and ask Rosemary to recommend a good wheel. My current favourite is Le Dauphin, a soft, silky white mould cheese from the Rhone Valley. Add some posh crackers and maybe even some quince paste, and you've got a very respectable present.

My verdict: I'm hesitant to include this on my list, because frankly the queues are big enough already, but it's really too good to miss.

B&M Store (High Street)

I've recently discovered this blink-and-you'll-miss-it shop, lured by a combination of the interesting window displays and my wife's sharp little elbow steering me through the door. It's definitely a place I'd recommend for scoping out some cool presents for dads.

The interior is done up in Melbourne hipster style, like the type of shop you'd find walking down Brunswick Street, and it has an interesting assortment of cool slimline leather wallets, travel and novelty books and posters, journals and office stationery, and a good section of gear for iPads and MacBooks.

My verdict: great for dads, bro's, and best buddies. This place is well and truly on my hit list for future present buying missions.

Check out B&M's website here.

New Edition (High Street)

If your dad, like my father-in-law, enjoys an interesting read, then New Edition is the place to visit. It has the added bonus of having an accompanying coffee shop, the brand new The Grumpy Sailor. But for me the wide range of interesting books will always be the star of the show.

New Edition had a bit of everything, but what makes it special is the non-fiction section, which features a selection of eclectic coffee table books. If your dad fancies himself in the kitchen then there is also a wide range of excellent cooking books (I highly recommend anything by Tessa Kiros) and if he likes to keep up with current affairs, history, art and design, photography or travel, then there is something for him as well.

My verdict: If your dad is an avid reader then chalk this place up. You also can enjoy a great coffee at a reasonable price and watch the goings on of High Street.

Check out their website here.

Whisper Wine Bar (Essex Street)

This choice is a little different, but bear with me.

Whisper Wine Bar, located on Essex Street, emerged on the Freo small bar scene about two years ago and hasn't looked back since. I have to confess that it was my father-in-law that discovered the place whilst my wife and I were enjoying the good life in Paris a couple of years ago.

Since I'm in the mood for confessing, I'll declare myself a francophile and after returning from Paris desperate to find a place that could reproduce French bread, my ears perked up when my father-in-law mentioned this small wine bar.

It turns out that Whisper Wine Bar flies in genuine Parisian baguettes to match an equally fine wine list, and it's surprisingly good value. (You'll have to take my father-in-law's word for that as I'm no wine expert.) There is a small menu along the lines of the Parisian baguettes, olives, dips and cheeses.

Whisper Wine Bar is a cosy little venue, with an upstairs section that is the epitome of all that is good about small bars. There's even a little balcony with geraniums. If your dad enjoys a fine drop of wine in classy surrounds, then an evening at Whisper followed by a movie at the Essex could prove to be special present.

My verdict: If you're looking for something different for the dad who enjoys wine and fine Parisian baguettes, then this is the place for you. Bring your own beret.

If all else fails, or you're just in a  bit of a rush ask the friendly staff at this Freo institution to guide to a good quality shirt or some cuff links.

My verdict: If I was a fashion diva, this would be my second home.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Freo under the microscope: My city is bigger than yours

Dean Cracknell is the author of this post. He is a Freo devotee interested in creating interesting, diverse places for people and is a guest contributor to The Fremantle Doctor blog. Dean can be followed on Twitter by checking out: @city_pragmatist

Perth is facing a new showdown for the ultimate in local bureaucratic bragging rights. Local politicians from Joondalup to Stirling and Freo are competing to develop Perth’s “second city”. The average punter probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But the competition is the planning equivalent of the Cold War era arms race and promises big changes for some city centres.

What the hell am I on about?

Time for a little history. Freo wore the “second city” tag fairly comfortably for a long time. It had lots of jobs (thanks to the port) and a bustling city centre. But there wasn’t really much competition for the title.

Perth has boomed in recent decades and urban sprawl has marched ever further outwards. Realising that sprawl is not sustainable, the Western Australian Planning Commission is now trying to concentrate new development and population growth in major ‘activity centres’, which include Fremantle, Joondalup, Rockingham, Stirling, Midland, Morley, Cannington and Armadale.

These major centres are technically referred to as ‘Strategic Metropolitan Centres’. The next category up on the bureaucratic hierarchy is called a ‘Primary Centre’ in planning-speak, the level just below central Perth (stay with me, there is a point at the end of all this!). No centres have yet earned the right to be labelled as a ‘Primary Centre’, but the race is on!

Grand plans

So, who are the competitors?

The Stirling City Centre boasts it will become Perth’s second city centre and aims to attract between 16,000 to 25,000 future residents (some serious residential density!). Joondalup also has a vision to become the second city centre. The draft Joondalup city centre plan sets no building height limits in some of its precincts in an effort to attract new development. The Morley City Centre Masterplan aims to create a ‘true’ city centre, with building heights of up to 16 storeys. These centres have serious ambitions.

Other major centres such as Cockburn (no maximum building height limits), Cannington, Murdoch, Rockingham, Midland and Canning Bridge all have big plans to attract significant new residential and commercial development.

Is Freo in the race?

Yes, the City of Fremantle has entered the race as well. It is aiming for Freo to become a ‘Primary Centre’, which is part of the rationale behind Scheme Amendment 49. The Council report (see Council Minutes 24 August 2011) to initiate Amendment 49 noted that:

“Primary Centres should be major employment hubs, housing major institutions and attracting high order public and private investment outside the capital city. The long term aim is for Primary Centres to provide a similar level of service to the Perth central area in order to substantially reduce the number and length of trips and provide significant employment opportunities.  To move into this higher category, existing centres are said to need to build on existing assets and work to improve factors such as accessibility, land availability, amenity and the availability of skilled labour. Two relevant points are that Primary Centres need to supply a significant number and diversity of jobs, and that the State Government is willing to strategically invest in infrastructure for Primary Centres”.

Community benefits

The State Government has shown it is willing to invest in services and infrastructure in major city centres, as partially demonstrated in Midland, Joondalup, Stirling and Armadale. It is also looking to relocate government departments to activity centres, which could supply jobs for locals and generate economic activity. There are also quite a few other benefits to concentrating development in city centres, which I won’t bore you with now.

But ...

I don’t think most people really care whether their city is first, third or eighth on a musty hierarchy. They just want a great place to live.

There is a tendency to think that density and quantity of development are ends in themselves. Really, they are just a means to an end. The end (or goal) should be creating a great place to live, work and socialise.

The focus should be on quality of development over quantity of development in my opinion. The objective should be to attract high quality, mixed use development that will complement the character of Fremantle. There are plenty of places that have lots of ‘floorspace’, but no character, life or interest (think Melbourne’s Docklands). Quantity does not necessarily encourage visitors – they more value quality and diversity.

Maybe Freo shouldn’t try to compete with the ambitions of other centres like Stirling or Joondalup, which have lots more room, no existing character and lofty ambitions. I don’t think Freo can win a quantity-based urban arms race. Rather, it should build on its strengths to win the quality urban arms race (where it would compete with the likes of Vancouver, central Melbourne, San Francisco and Vienna).

Focus on a ‘City for People’ first

I think a city for people would be taller and denser than Freo is today. It would have high quality development, a vibrant mix of land uses, more offices and shops, many more city residents, plenty of stores selling everyday goods for locals (not just tourists), interesting, walkable streets and a vitality and dynamism that will draw innovative businesses and cultural institutions.

If Freo ends up becoming a ‘Primary Centre’ though a quality-focussed development approach, that is great. But a single-minded focus on becoming a ‘Primary Centre’ for its own sake is not good enough.

Bragging that my “my city is bigger than yours” is crass. Freo should instead focus on a quality development approach, so that it can justifiably claim to be the best place to live, work, shop and play.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Freo Quick Shot: Freo wildlife - Not just on Friday nights

The giant numbat near the markets
Over the years I've become a fan of the afternoon siesta (my wife reckons that my enjoyment of them has corresponded with my years working in local government).

Last Saturday, I woke from my afternoon siesta with an intense craving for a grape-flavoured slushy from the Old Shanghai food hall near the markets. Five minutes later, I was sitting down leaning against the front wall of one of the Henderson Street cottages enjoying my slushy and admiring the giant numbat that was facing me. From the number of passers by that were also taking in the giant numbat it seems to me that this piece of urban artwork has been a real success story.

Lyon is famous for its murals. Imagine taking Freo's drab and featureless walls and turning them one blank wall at a time into pieces of art that we can care about?

Turning a negative into an opportunity

The other day I was walking up Henry Street heading towards High Street when I noticed a building with a long, boring blank wall facing back at me. I immediately thought of the giant numbat and how a unique well designed urban mural on this wall would add to the street.

In one of my posts earlier this week about Projections on High (click here), I referenced Carol Coletta's concept of 'central activities districts'. I really liked her concept and imagined Freo as a bustling city full of quality places and activities.

I see Freo's blank walls (and there are quite a few of them) being a potential opportunity. Tranformimg these walls would potentially add another activity that would keep building on Freo's point of difference - that being a city with quality places, unique character and offering more than just a shopping experience.

James Howard Kunstler talks about the importance of creating places that people can care about. I don't care about the blank wall on Henry Street, but I sure care about the giant numbat. It would be great to see Council work towards tranforming these Freo's blank walls into something we can all be proud of and that will attract people.

Additional reading

For some examples of Lyon's urban murals click here. For other examples click here and here.
An example of Lyon's urban murals. Source: Google images

Monday, 12 March 2012

Lighting up Freo

One of the projections from Projections on High
One of my Freo highlights from 2011 was VJzoo's Projections on High which ran as part of the Fremantle Festival (for my other Freo highlights click here). The event was a smashing success and even my wife, who can be cynical about these things, was impressed.

We enjoyed strolling down High Street being enchanted by the images that were projected onto the facades of about twenty buildings. I noticed that there were plenty of people out and about looking at the projections as well as dedicated photographers using the opportunity to snap something a bit different. It was great to see a bit of life on High Street, especially in the evening.

The success of this event got me thinking about the potential to have more.

Night time lighting as an attractor?

A couple of years ago, I convinced my superiors to let me attend a conference in Melbourne on placemaking. The other day I discovered my notes and saw 'central activities district' highlighted in big letters. I recalled one of the keynote speakers (Carol Coletta) mentioning how certain cities had been working to create 'central activities districts' as a means of attracting people. Coletta commented that times were changing and cities were moving to create quality places to have a natural advantage compared with their competitors.

My rediscovery coincided with an article I had read about how New York was actively looking to make full use of and derive benefit from night time lighting as a means of attracting people to south Manhattan. In their project brief, the New York department responsible for economic development expressly highlighted the role that night time lighting would play in attracting people and adding to the qualities of the place.

Freo city centre as a central activities district?

I like the idea of flipping our dialogue from 'central business district' to 'central activities district'. I think that a key to successfully revitalising Freo is about imagining how many awesome activities we can provide in our city. I get the feeling that maybe people are looking for more than just a shopping trip and we're in a position to offer that point of difference that Garden City, Stirling, Cockburn and Joondalup just can't provide.

I'd like to see Council build on the success of Projections on High. I see an opportunity for having seasonal showings outside of the Fremantle Festival and eventually possibly expanding these projections beyond the West End and around the inner city. Like in the City of Greater Dandenong, tours could be arranged and a new economy could emerge.

A ten year vision for lighting our buildings could result in the type of success that Cottesloe currently enjoys with Sculptures by the Sea and see Freo begin attracting talent, residents and businesses due to its quality places and awesome central activities district.

Additional reading

For more reading on this topic click herehere and especially here.
To find out more about Carol Coletta click here.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

March of the Lanterns: Wray Avenue, 31 March 2012

The seriously cool placemaking that has been going on at Wray Avenue this summer (check out the crayon initiative here) continues with the March of the Lanterns being held on 31 March 2012.

To coincide with Earth Hour, paper lanterns decorating the front of houses and businesses along Wray Avenue will light up Freo's only avenue. Strolling along the street, checking out the lanterns sounds like a great way to have some fun.

Second Lantern Making Workshop: 19 March, 4pm to 8pm

A second lantern making workshop will be held on Monday 19 March between 4pm and 8pm.

People from outside of Wray Avenue who would like to attend the March of the Lanterns are invited to come and make their own lanterns.

The venue has not been confirmed.

Contact details

To find out more about the workshop and the March of the Lanterns, you can contact Heath (the chief placemaker) via email at or by phone on 0421 707 341.

Wray Avenue Blog

Heath also runs a blog dedicated to the history and community of Wray Avenue.

To check it out click here.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Five ideas for Freo from...Neal's Yard, London

Dean Cracknell is the author of this post. He is a Freo devotee interested in creating interesting, diverse places for people and is a guest contributor to The Fremantle Doctor blog. Dean can be followed on Twitter by checking out: @city_pragmatist

Relaxing, it’s gotta be one of my favourite things to do. My wife thinks I am pretty good at it as well, especially when there is housework to be done. Relaxing in public spaces can be surprisingly difficult though. People have been living in cities for thousands of years, but I am often amazed how difficult it is to find a nice place to relax.

London is an amazing city, but relaxing is probably not a word too many people would associate with this metropolis, especially if you don’t like crowds like me. One of my favourite places to hang out though is Neal’s Yard. It is a small, intimate, triangle of space that is sheltered from the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden. For me, it is an outdoor lounge-room, with an interesting ‘wallpaper’ of buildings that enclose the yard.

My wife and I stumbled across Neal's Yard after negotiating a small alleyway, one of two narrow entrances to the yard. The yard has several restaurants and shops and we chose a small Italian cafe for a bite to eat. A few minutes after sitting down, a pianist started playing some soothing jazz-inspired notes and later one of the patrons got up to sing. I didn’t recognise the tunes, but thought what an awesome place!

After devouring some pizza and a coffee, I stretched back and wondered why there aren't more places like this? So what can Fremantle glean from Neal’s Yard? Here are my thoughts:

Contrasts in colours and materials

Contrasting colours and materials add life and interest to buildings. This seemed to go out of fashion with the rise of Modernist architecture. The High Priest of Modernism, Le Corbusier, believed that all buildings must be coloured all-white.

Freo can emphasise its ‘organic’ vibe and encourage contrasting colours and materials.

Vertical emphasis to buildings

Traditional architecture highlighted a vertical emphasis to openings and building facades. This is demonstrated well in this picture. See how the windows and facades are narrow and tall?

Next time you are walking in Freo’s West End, look for the vertical emphasis to traditional building facades. Contrast this style with the horizontal emphasis seen on most buildings built from the 1950’s onwards seen in other areas.

Lots of greenery

Street trees and greenery are very important for softening urban spaces and making them feel comfortable and appealing. There is greenery all around Neal’s Yard, with bamboo, trees, green walls and even a green roof.

I say the more trees and greenery in Freo the better!

Spots for people to relax and talk

People watching is a favourite urban pastime.

Pedestrians slowly wander through Neal’s Yard on their way to other parts of Covent Garden, which provides colour and movement to the scene. People attract people and successful places supply spots to linger and watch the world go by.

Simple, cheap, effective furniture

Great places need not be expensive. I think there is a tendency to over-engineer and over-plan public spaces. Neal’s Yard has made wonderful use of simple, inexpensive materials.

These are a few of my ideas for Freo. What do you think makes a great place to hang out?

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Pavement to Parklets Freo style

A couple of weekends ago, I was kicking back with some friends at Moore & Moore Cafe in the newish alfresco area that fronts Henry Street. My companions went to order and I was left to guard/admire our spot. While I waited I took in the scene around me and thought what a success it was for such a small space.

It struck me that this new alfresco area had brought life out onto Henry Street, and the greenery had added to the street not subtracted from it. 
And all in the same space as a car bay or two!

Introducing a new type of open space

Recently, a new type of open space - the parklet or pop up park - has been successfully introduced into New York and San Francisco which has led to other cities implementing similar initiatives.

A San Francisco parklet
Source: San Francisco Pavements to Parks website
These cities recognised that there was something missing in the overall provision of open space in the inner city for people to enjoy. They had found that at different times people have different needs, which doesn't always lead them to the larger parks that were on offer. In short, they discovered that people were also attracted to smaller more intimate, and welcoming spaces that were carefully located so as to be a part of the urban fabric.

These new types of open space, which are available to the public, have been successful. They've represented an investment in the public realm and the pedestrian environment, and have contributed more life to the streets.

A model for revitalising Freo?

For me, people are the key for driving Freo's revitalisation. This means that, above all else, place matters. Quality places will be really important in attracting residents, tourists, creatives and businesses to Freo. It strikes me that Moore and Moore's type of hybrid alfresco/parklet space could provide a model for Council as part of its revitalisation efforts.

I'd like to see Council investigate San Francisco's 'Pavement to Parks' initiative and prepare its own comprehensive strategy for implementing a range of better quality open spaces in the city centre.

If done properly, these hybrid parklets would add to the variety of choice in the city centre and provide places of discovery that equates to a natural advantage for Freo (think Melbourne's laneways). One new hybrid space each year for a decade would mean ten quality types of these spaces in Freo's city centre.

Combine the introduction of these little spaces with an upgrade of our medium and larger parks around the city centre and we'll have our point of difference and be a couple of steps closer to achieving revitalisation.

Additional reading

Here is some additional reading:
For the official San Francisco Pavements to Parks website click here.
For some interesting reading on parklets click here and here.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Thwaites and Wilberforce Strike Back

For an introduction to Thwaites and Wilberforce click here
SETTING: A corner on High Street, Fremantle. The sun is beating down on two young men who are standing beside a small tree, which is sitting in a black plastic bag bordered by orange barriers. Each man is leaning lethargically on an enormous shovel. The men are dressed in rolled-up shirtsleeves and suit pants, and both have sweaty rings under their arms. One is also looking a bit sunburnt.

WILBERFORCE: So what are you here for?
THWAITES (sheepishly): I left the only copy of the draft design guidelines for Scheme Amendment 49 on the bus.
WILBERFORCE (grimacing sympathetically): Tough break, mate. We've all been there. You know the design guidelines for the East End?
THWAITES: The ones that were meant to be released early last year?
WILBERFORCE: Yep, those ones. Know why they never went out? (He points to his chest with both thumbs.) Back of a taxi after the 2010 Christmas party. Luckily the boss hasn't noticed yet.

(A brief pause while they watch a pretty backpacker walk past.)

THWAITES: So what are you in for?
WILBERFORCE: You know that new security camera at the Round House?
THWAITES: The one on the giant pole that looks straight into everyone's bedrooms?

WILBERFORCE: Yeah. That was me.
THWAITES: Ah. (A short, slightly embarrassed pause.)
THWAITES: Nice try though.
WILBERFORCE: I know, wouldn't it have been great? They were just about to mount the camera when a resident complained.

(He looks despondent, and THWAITES pats his shoulder consolingly. Another pretty backpacker walks past.

THWAITES: So what are we meant to be doing here exactly?
WILBERFORCE: We're supposed to plant this (prods the sapling violently) in the ground. And then repeat the process with all the others.
THWAITES (looking down the street and groaning): God, there are so many. And it's so hot. Can't we put it off till it's cooler? 
WILBERFORCE: Believe me, I tried. Turns out they've been sitting in these bags for three months already. The last bloke in charge of planting started with the grass trees at Bathers sandblasted pretty bad.
THWAITES: Ooh, nasty.
WILBERFORCE: Yeah, he'll be off for a few more weeks yet, till they know whether the eyelid transplant worked.
THWAITES (sighing): Well, better make a start. 

(He attempts to wrestle one of the plastic barriers out of the way, heaving with his whole body weight before collapsing against it in a sweaty heap.)

THWAITES (gasping): Bloody hell!
WILBERFORCE: I know. I think I got a hernia doing that yesterday.
THWAITES (sounding desperate): Aren't there... pipes and things we need to map before we do any planting?
WILBERFORCE (shaking his head): Taken care of. I called that 'dial before you dig' number.
THWAITES: Don't they sometimes get things wrong?
WILBERFORCE: Nah, don't think so. They have to be pretty on the ball in that department. Imagine if they got mixed up? I mean, people would be digging up gas lines and mains water supplies all over the shop.
THWAITES: You're right. It's an awesome responsibility. 
WILBERFORCE: It sure is.
THWAITES: I mean, we could hit a gas line, cause a spark and take out half of the West End! The public is relying on us to be a hundred percent sure of what we're doing.
WILBERFORCE: At the very least. Probably more like a hundred and ten percent.

(The two men ponder this for a moment.)

WILBERFORCE: You know, Thwaites...
THWAITES: Yes, Wilberforce?
WILBERFORCE: The guy I spoke to about where the pipes were didn't sound, you know... totally positive. Only, like, a hundred and nine percent sure.
THWAITES (looking suddenly alert): Not one hundred and ten?
WILBERFORCE: Nope, definitely more like a hundred and nine. A hundred and nine point five, tops.
THWAITES: Well, we have to stop the project right now, Wilberforce. Hundreds of lives could be at stake! 
WILBERFORCE: You're right, Thwaites. Launching in willy-nilly to something as serious as this is irresponsible. We need to do some more research. 
THWAITES: A study at the very least.
WILBERFORCE: And probably a working group too. Just to be sure. To investigate properly could take months. Ol' eyelids could be back before we're able to go ahead.
THWAITES: What a shame...but it's no use cutting corners. We'd better go tell the boss.

(Both young men sigh happily, and begin sauntering down High Street.)

THWAITES: Wilberforce...
WILBERFORCE: Yes, Thwaites?
THWAITES: Do you reckon people will people buy it? I mean, a study to put in a few plants... They're bound to think it's a bit suss.
WILBERFORCE: Trust me, mate, I don't think it's going to be a problem. Now let's nip into the backpackers and check their licence hasn't expired. Come to think of it, I reckon there needs to be a CCTV camera around there...

(He claps THWAITES heartily on the shoulder. The audience hears THWAITES exclaim "Ow, watch the sunburn!" before their voices fade into silence.)

When my wife and I strolled down High Street last December we were both pleasantly surprised to see that some trees had been introduced into the West End, albeit not planted but sitting in bags surrounded plastic barriers.

Recently I was glad to discover that the City is looking into making this more permanent. I hope that the study doesn't disappear into the bureaucratic mire and that we can enjoy street trees in the West End fairly soon.