Session 2: Curious Instances
Part 1: Where are you at?
It was hard to get a lot out of this half hour. We did talk a little about what we’d learned. I don’t think that the tutors stressed hard enough in Session #1 that we needed to get stuck into the main project, “The Making Of”, as part of our independent study.
We did each talk a little about the places were had chosen or were thinking of choosing.
It was interesting to hear why people had chosen their places. For some, it was because it was where they’d grown up, so they felt a personal connection since childhood; for others, it was where they lived now.
I think we got a little more out of this part when we got back together. Again, interesting to hear why people had chosen their places. One guy had chosen a place in the UK because of an old family connection. People’s history seemed to play a big part in why they chosen. I’m at such a distance from the place I grew up, and even now the countries I’ve lived in previously, that I feel more connected to New Zealand, and to my chosen place, Days Bay.
On reflection, I feel even more connected to Days Bay now that I’ve read more about the history of the place. The Wellington region has been occupied for about 650 years, with Europeans arriving in any numbers about 180 years ago. Neither of those numbers seem very large coming from the UK, when it’s not that hard to find bits of 2000 year old Roman stuff around the place, and it’s maybe even easier to find 5000 year old stone circles like Castlerigg, below (there are known to be around 1300 in the British Isles).
So, perhaps I feel like my 13 years here are a significantly long time, particularly when contrasted with the 180 years of European settlement?
Part 2: sharing our walks
We broke out into the same groups again and talked about the walks we’d had and the enabling/disabling things we’d found. I talked about the tree I’d seen where blocks had been placed around it, but the tree was pushing them out of the way.
Later, when I showed this image to the whole group, Matthijs commented on the pixelated effect of the yellow paint on the blocks, and Dick said that the tree didn’t look very happy to be surrounded by Gobi Blocks.
I hadn’t known that those blocks were called that before! I know what they remind me of though: Dragon’s Teeth. That’s the nickname for a type of wartime fortification used against wheeled or tracked vehicles.
Gobi blocks must look like Dragon’s Teeth if you’re in a wheelchair.
Others in my group talked about their walks to the supermarket, and the ramps they’d seen. One of the other student had a photo of a ramp on a community centre, and it was a bit depressing to see, at the top of the ramp, a final step to get into the building.
I still find it fascinating that every design decision for a built environments is necessarily an active choice. It’s a choice between providing access to people who are mobility impaired or other disabled people, or, choosing to disadvantage them by denying or restricting their access. Two weeks into this course and I’m starting to feel pretty strongly about that choice, and I’m seeing the results of it everywhere.
Part 3: Curious Instances
We got into groups again to talk about the curious instances we’d found on our walk, and then took that back to the larger group. A couple of stories that stuck out to me.
One photo was of two basketball nets on poles. After a short conversation about them, another student posted in the chat that these weren’t both basketball nets; one was a netball goal. Nobody picked up on the fact that one of the nets was for netball; people just kind of talked about basketball. Dick challenged us on this and said that this was a patriarchal attitude – we put the male dominated item first. Not sure I can really agree that it’s entirely patriarchal – I think there’s a degree of sports knowledge in there too, because to be honest I’ve not watched either sport – but I take his point. It pays to look carefully at things, and to try to and see them with unbiased eyes.
Part 4: Why good urban design requires a better understanding of Tikanga Māori
Another interesting conversation related to Māori culture and its influence on urban design. A point that came up was the language used when talking about about this subject. One of the others students said, and I’m heavily paraphrasing here, something like, “I think we … and that they …”.
So… “we” and “they”. I knew what she was trying to say, but that’s pretty charged language, and Dick challenged us up on it. I think he’s good at that – he’s challenging, but not confrontational. Makes you think, as any good “teacher” does (and I’m using that word just to mean “a person who teaches”, not teacher as a profession).
We talked a bit about how Auckland is, and these are my words, “just another big Asian city”. I don’t mean by that, “a city with lots of Asian people living in it”, I mean, “a city that feels like other cities in the Asia region”. Meaning, lots of concrete, wide roads, a “standard” set of retailers, lots of traffic issues, a token “large tower-like structure”, and so on. Going to need to be a lot more careful with language on this course!
Auckland doesn’t feel like New Zealand, to me anyway. Then again, I’ve been to Invercargill, and that didn’t feel much like New Zealand either.
Why isn’t there more of New Zealand’s unique Māori culture represented in its largest city. Don’t know. I have been thinking about it a lot though, and came up with a difficult question: