Bureaucracy in Urban Placemaking is the Very Definition of Corruption: A Rant
I'm going to break with my system and put the link to my subject at the top of the post. Please read it before you read anything else.
That being read: I have reached a point in my life where I no longer watch or read the mainstream news. The internet, fabulous social tool that it is, allows me to stay aware of what I can do to help create change at the local level. Beyond that, I very strongly believe that the best way for me to be a productive member of society is to stick to my own specialized interests and work toward making one facet of the human experience a little more enjoyable. In other words, most of my media consumption is focused on architecture, planning, placemaking, geography, and related fields. I love places; they are my passion. The politics of place are more than enough to raise and rile me every day.
So I always see red when this type of fussy, petulant, bureaucratic bullshit bleeds into the physical environments of cities like a vile pus. True, all we're talking about here is a mural being painted over. But it's the reaction of the people at Transport for London that is so fundamentally disturbing. The Banksy mural was a local landmark. It was part of the character of the neighborhood, and it was appreciated by locals and tourists alike. To suggest that the mural created a "general atmosphere of neglect and social decay which in turn [encouraged] crime," or that its removal "makes the transport system safer and more pleasant for passengers" is a joke. What would make London safer and more pleasant is, apparently, a regime change at TfL. Or, at the very least, the hiring of a few of the "art critics" that the spokesperson's comments are so blatantly distainful of.
Cities are messy places. They are the most fantastically, gloriously frenetic environments on the face of the planet. This is true because they are simply built representations of humankind. And we, as a species, are messy and frenetic. It is the diversity of cultures and interests and habits and all of our trillions of idiosyncrasies that makes our lives--and, by extension, our cities--so full of vitality. To try to regulate and standardize the urban environment is an outright crime against humanity. It denies the human nature of cities, and creates a general atmosphere of spiritual neglect and social decay which in turn encourages mass apathy.
(Photo from Flickr user melfeasance.)