Story six –
Despite Jane Jacob’s mid-twentieth century urban planning dictum that there ‘should be eyes on the street’, the last 60-odd years has seen us surrender the street to the car, swap in the name of privacy and safety the pavement for the back garden, and largely reserve the personality we stamp on our homes for their innards. A tragedy – as Jacob might say – for the notion of neighbourhood.
Irony of ironies, then, that – exactly when our movement is so radically restricted – there are everywhere signs of a turning back. Most obviously, it is the growing trend – led by children – for turning the fronts of our homes into giant billboards for the communication of joy, the rainbows in our windows allowing our houses to speak to others, next door, strangers. Equally, the privacy afforded by the insides of our homes not quite what it was in this the age of enforced privacy, we are spilling out – in our virus-imposed units – onto our balconies, door steps, and front gardens, peppering our once respectfully blank facades with life, with the laughter and bravery of a people we are only just getting to know, despite having known them for years.
These are the eyes that Jacob speaks of. They are the opposite of the blank or blind fronts and sides that she warned against. It’s the street reclaimed – literally, metaphorically – that she yearned for. Much here for urban planners and policy makers to mull over. Let the street in – and our houses out.
Words by Adam Scott and Dave Waddell
Illustration Jessica Watson
In Good Company Leeds, ‘Posters for the People’, 2020.
‘Chalk messages of hope’, 2020.
‘Dinner on the driveway’, 2020.
The historian Peter Hennessy recently observed that future historians will divide post-divide society into BC and AC – Before COVID and After COVID. It is in exactly this spirit that AfterCOVID seeks to celebrate how the world’s largest shared experience has given us the most extraordinary stories of what it means to live beautifully. Together, they are the clues to creating the future we all hope for.
FreeState is planning for a post-COVID future. Share your story with us – really, we’d love to talk. In the meantime, stay well.