As you drive about most cities, or better still walk, you can get the feeling of how it was planned. There are really different feelings evoked by different districts, through their design & layout, through the type of shops and restaurants that are housed there, the offices, the apartments, the houses, the schools and of course the parks, if you are lucky enough to have them. 

The parks are clear proof of good visionary planning and the major cities of Europe are well seaweed by parks with London especially blessed with Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James Park all gives wonderful breaking, walking, thinking space in the centre of town. Paris is also blessed with magnificent parks, and Edinburgh has an almost wilderness area, Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat, right in the middle of the city. Wonderful. 

Here we are not so lucky. We have Ancol in the far north, not easy to access for the majority of the city, the Ragunan in the far South, which combines being a park with some zoo animals. In the middle, there is Monas Square, which has never found its true identity and functions as a place for the citizens to enjoy. In between, parks which are walkable fro major residence areas, very few Ahok tried when he was governor  but didn’t complete the place.

But here is the saddest part of the equation, almost everywhere in the city there are vacant lots, places which are just left as ‘future development’ and are boarded off. In the suburbs these areas are often still cultivated, as the farmers scrabble for available space, but all will become offices, malls or apartments. 

We talk a lot about waste: reuse, recycle, refuse, but we never talk about an equally valuable resource: waste land. If you walk about Rome, Paris, London, Edinburgh, you will rarely see such waste because the city planners have zoned, planned, allocated and enforced each and every square meter of the valued land, making use of it for something we do not prioritise here: public space. 

If you go back to Rome and ancient Greece you will quickly see how much the city further loved public space and made it beautiful, well proportioned and often magnificent, so that people would gather and stroll and feel part of the city. Here we are locked on our cars or in our helmets unable to appreciate our city. What a waste. 

Alistair Speirs

Alistair Speirs

Alistair has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for 25 years. He started NOW! Magazines as the region’s preferred community magazine.