The public realm provided for residents is one thing - semi-gated areas paid for by said residents via service charges - but there's also the public realm that is truly public, and we are seeing a lot of that in this part of the south east, due to redevelopments along the side of Deptford Creek, the station and the Thames where the local authorities try to include obligations for the landowners to provide public access to riverside walks and so on.
I've been browsing lots of new public realm stuff recently, both locally and not too far distant, and intend to bring you some of the best and worst examples over coming weeks. Here's a local example that commits some of my 'favourite' public realm crimes.
1. Public realm masquerading as a large advertising billboard.
"You can have flowerbeds but only if we can plant them with our branding."
2. Large paved areas mysteriously free of any features aside from some random coloured paving stones.
"We miscalculated the size of the public realm when putting the budget together and don't want to buy any more street furniture or raised beds."
3. Oversized steel box, presumably containing some kind of services, communications or control equipment, placed in the most obtrusive position blighting any suggestion of an holistic landscaping concept and blocking access to any parts of the realm designed for public access.
"Where the fuck are we going to put this?" "What about the large paved area? That's in need of a feature."
4. Seating. Facing the least attractive view that can be found. A large steel box or something, should you happen to have one handy; failing that, a supermarket entrance. Not under any circumstances facing anything at all interesting, say a river, creek, or the site of a planned footbridge.
"Well the last thing our residents want is people actually using the seats and hanging around looking shifty."
I don't know why I am so surprised, I knew this was going to be shit from the moment I saw the 'renderings' fastened on the fence opposite Waitrose. I just didn't think it was going to be this shit.