Tag Archives: public spaces

Guest post: A meditation on parks

Welcome back from Reading Week!

Today I have for you the third instalment from Professor Shelley Hulan about her recant travels in India and England.

“Being a walker by habit and inclination, I naturally gravitate towards routes and destinations that favour the carless. This winter I’ve been lucky enough to be able to compare parks in two of the world’s great cities, Delhi and London. In metropolitan centres as ancient as these two, a couple of things are immediately apparent: First, the city’s inhabitants take their shared spaces—and the universal right to them—very seriously. Second, whatever their history (and they are likely to have plenty of it), these spaces are always working spaces. Their flora and fauna, beautiful to look at, are “ornamental” in precisely the sense identified in the OED: they are the accessories, often functional in their own right, of a larger, more important entity.

What makes these parks more important than their component parks are the ideas and attitudes implicit in visitors’ use of them. Beautiful oases in the heart of crowded urban centres, these parks are democratic. On any day of the week you will see a cross-section of society that includes people of every class and occupation, all with an equal right to the space and all using it to fulfil immediate needs: to exercise, to socialize, to picnic with friends and family, or just (a most precious possibility) to spend time in relative seclusion beneath the trees. In the parks you see in these photographs, places may be found to do all of the above, even on busy Sunday afternoons, when I took most of these pictures.

Without further ado, I give you Lodi Gardens and Jantar Mantar, both historic and archaeological sites in central Delhi, and Greenwich, St. James’s Park, and the Mall (closed to cars on Sundays) in London.”

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