The Medium is the Message, or Parks as Performance

IMG00020-20110812-0852 Last night I enjoyed seeing good friend, a professional musician, perform with two bandmates. As at times in the past, I was struck by the generative power of a talented, experienced performance artist. At one moment, there are three people on a stage, poised to play. The next moment, they create something that establishes a connection not only among the producers, but among the audience, and between the two groups.

Given that a primary filter of mine is that of placemaking, I wondered what this shared musical experience means for our work in urban design and redevelopment. Current Donjek projects include an initiative on urban open space, focused on building links between residents and workers to a major riverway and to the green space itself. An (implicit) goal is connecting people to each other using open space as the medium, to create a distinct experience. Another current engagement relates to exploring reuse of a historic industrial building; a substantial element of the community’s preservation interest is to use the structure to connect people today to yesterday’s residents and the heritage of the place. In each case, physical design acts as a language that allows us to relate to others.

Music and other performances can trigger a powerful connection among us. Our places can become more vital and durable if we build and preserve them with connection in mind. 

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