Saturday, May 23, 2009

Second Person Present

As you approach the picnic table in Paragon Gardens, you see that there is a man sitting there at the picnic table. He is wearing a suit, he has two carrier bags from Lidl, which appear to be full of shopping, and he has a Bible. At least it looks like a Bible: you can see a fairly elaborate leather binding, with a large lighter coloured cross on the front. So you presume that what is contained in this binding is a Bible. You can see that the man has only one shoe on, the other is placed on the ground and he doesn’t appear to be wearing any socks, at least not on the foot that is without the shoe, which of course is therefore naked. A naked foot. You don’t really feel that you want to in any way encourage him to leave, obviously. He has every right to be at that table, it’s a public table in a public place, but at the same time you feel a certain amount of anxiety because you don’t really want to spend too much time here as you have something else to go and do. But you walk away, you keep your distance, you stand some way away where you can see him, to see whether he remains there or whether it’s worth your while really waiting around for him to leave, but at a distance where you think he wouldn’t be able to see you. And then he turns around and looks at you, you are on the other side of the gardens, near the entrance on the road, which in this case is New Kent Road. So, rather self-consciously you decide to just walk away as if you are just pausing on your journey. And then you walk along through the rest of the gardens and then you turn left and you double back along Searles Road to where there is an entrance to the gardens, opposite the Paragon building that exists there now, which has become a development of private flats: I guess what you would call luxury flats, certainly they would be quite expensive.
You see that the man has actually left, so you feel free to approach the table and sit down at it.

The table from a distance could easily be mistaken for a picnic table made of wood, it looks as though it could be wood from a distance, and it’s the style of picnic table that you might often see in a public space, but particularly and more usually in rural places, parks, out in the countryside, woodlands, and so forth. And it’s the only one in Paragon Gardens, in both parts of Paragon Gardens this is the only picnic table.

On close inspection it’s quite clear that the picnic table isn’t made of wood, but I suppose it’s some kind of plastic polymer, which has been made in such a way as to almost resemble wood. It has its own plastic grain, which could be mistaken, at a cursory glance, for wood.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Paragon Gardens x 2

Paragon Gardens is a long public garden in two parts.

Part One:

Part Two:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Aesthetic Control

...landscape works to existing park including: removal of existing hard surfacing, furniture and railings, tree felling, thinning of existing shrubs, removal of some existing planting, new macadam footpaths, new seating & new shrub and perennial planting.

So, sometime between 10 July and 23 October 2007, between the two occasions when you stop by to capture video, they appear: concrete spherical objects of various sizes, decorated occasionally with leaf motifs.

The applicants have provided indicative details of the type of concrete seating/stepping stones which are proposed to be installed. The design of these has not been finalised and will be the subject of a planning condition. However their size as gauged from the submitted examples is considered acceptable.

Seating/stepping stones? You try to sit on one: cold, uncomfortable, you wouldn’t want to sit here for long and you certainly can’t step on them.

It is intended that thinning out the vegetation and removing the fencing will open up the park and reduce its attractiveness to drinkers who allegedly congregate there.

So super strength topplers then, White Lightning upsetters, inebriate unbalancers, there’s nowhere to sit, nowhere to stretch out and sleep out of public view, the drinkers can’t use the space and no-one else can. Thank you, you think.

It has been confirmed by the Metropolitan Police that the proposal will be likely to increase usage of the park thereby will help reduce fear of crime.

Design based on fear, of the perception of a threat, the aesthetics of paranoia.

The overall layout and design of the park is considered acceptable and no objection is raised to the proposed lettering and areas of landscaping/hard surfacing.

Perhaps the lettering is not objectionable in itself, but the inscription tells you that the place has been rewritten as a transient rhetorical space - not a ‘non-place’ or loose space but one from which you can only leave - a “move along please” space. The local authority has created a highly determined space, they expect you to find your own way, they even write it on the path and then they tell you where to go: not here.

Cited text from Southwark Council’s recommendations after application for planning approval.
Applicant: Mr J Sheaff, London Borough of Southwark

Reg. Number: 06-CO-0125

Application Type: Council's Own Development - Reg. 3 (Council's Own Development)

Recommendation: Grant

Case Number: TP/1120-137