On my walk around Madrid today, I observed how the Spanish authorities really allow their citizens to "live".
People were drifting around on bikes sans helmets, dogs were running amongst the trees in the park, scooters were parked out the front of the shops on the footpaths, people were drinking beer in the street with their lunch, kids were playing on rudimentary playgrounds with no "soft fall"...
And a memory came back to me.
It was when I was building a nature playground at Lake Claremont a few years ago. I was paid a visit by a well known off-the-shelf playground supplier who took one look at what we were doing and said "you'll need to put rubber on those rocks you know".
In Perth, we design beautifully neat public open space where the trees are perfectly well-behaved (read "insipid"), the lawns are manicured and leaf-free, the paving is expensive and detailed and "interpretive" public art is all over the place …. BUT THEY'RE HORRIBLE PLACES TO BE!
Think I'm exaggerating? Go to Forrest Place or Elizabeth Quay on a hot summer's day or the parks of any new housing estate on the outskirts of the city.They're appalling places where no-one in their right mind would want to be.
WHAT ARE WE, CRAZY?
DO WE REALLY THINK THIS IS "LIVING"?
Mediterranean people have so much to teach us about creating public places that actually get lived in. They can also teach us that constantly seeking to make our lives safe simply drains the joy out of them.
As I said to the chap who told me we needed to put rubber on our rocks:
"Thanks mate. WE'LL RISK IT."