Tag Archives: public realm


In the southeast at least, fading summer departs with grace cut across by wet and windy bluster.   Autumn beckons.   But the sun shone last week, and in that lingering warmth I found myself in Vauxhall Gardens, site of the original Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens between around 1650 – 1850.

The historical gardens offered pleasures  more extensive than those available today, but the past few years have seen the Gardens reclaim one aspect of their former glory: people are using them again, as a through route, as a place to linger.  Within the Gardens is Vauxhall City Farm, a stalwart which, if memory serves, dates from the early 1980s.  But this is simply background to my actual subject: Deckchairs. Continue reading

Play Streets. Popup playgrounds. Good. But…

Call it ‘recession’, or call it ‘austerity’. We know what is meant. The public purse is depleted. If we are to shift, we must shift for ourselves. This forms part of the wider context of two relatively new phenomena, at least in so far as they have taken recent institutional shape: Play Streets; and pop-up adventure playgrounds.

Play Streets, in the UK at least, involve local residents seeking permission to close a street to cars for ‘x’ number of hours per week. As far as I know, closure is only allowed for a few hours. They rely heavily on the voluntary efforts of local parents, to supervise and provide general oversight of the play street session. After the allotted ‘play time’ is over, the street reverts back to its usual status and function.

Pop-up adventure playgrounds can, in principle, ‘pop-up’ in any space, public or private. An unloved, or underused park or open space perhaps; or a shop unit whose retail function has been felled by that recession mentioned earlier.

There is something beguiling about both phenomena, not simply because of their play function, but because they appear as cousins to the ideas and ideologies informing ‘meanwhile places’, reclaiming the street, and ‘pop up’ this and that – restaurants, bars, raves, etc; and temporary sort-of-squatted artist studios/living quarters that put to use empty buildings for which the market can find no immediate use. Continue reading