This is how you use a city street.
  • CM
  • This is how you use a sidewalk.

The local environmental lawyer Charles Wolfe provides a interesting theory of urban improvisation in his short e-book Urbanism Without Effort. The best we can expect from urban planning, he believes, is the creation and implementation of policies and conditions that encourage spontaneity. A sense of safety among citizens is one such condition. But urban improvisations can really happen anywhere a city is. There is no need for a sense of safety or for good planning. What is needed more than anything else is just lots of people. The more humans you have, the greater the chances of the kind of interactions that lead to improvisations that are explosive or peaceful. The table by the sidewalk on King Street between 7th Ave South and 8th Ave South is an excellent example of a peaceful improvisation. Here, on sunny days, elderly Asian men relax and make conversation under the dark leaves of an old tree and in view of the traffic. This is an urban pleasure proper. The whole arrangement recalls Micheal Wolf's collection of improvised chairs in Hong Kong (Bastard Chairs). Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, calls a sidewalk more of a park than a street. What we see on this part on an ID sidewalk is the most beautiful kind of park, a bastard park.