Friday, November 24, 2006

Patterns in a picture III

I choose random photos here, purposely: Venice has so many overlapping good patterns, so much life, at such depth, that any glimpse of it, anywhere, reveals important principles. These are patterns that anyone can use, mutatis mutandis, for the good of their community.

1. Many stories : the great thing about a public square, or any gathering place, in this case a campo, is that everyone can be the center of attention, even if they are doing nothing at all. Here's a priest, near a newspaper kiosk, engaged in conversation, waiving his cellphone -- waiting for a call, or about to make one -- and does it have anything to do with his conversation? There are some young ladies, sitting on the well-head, preening in the shade on a hot day, looking at their camera, no doubt recording the scene in the campo, as we are. An elderly couple sits in a cafe nearby ... all of them add to the richness of life in the square, helping each other to feel more human.

2. Sub-centers, active or vestigial : the campo is clearly a major center. But it would be dead without supporting centers ... even when they are barely operational. Here's a kiosk -- closed at the moment, and many kiosks in Venice serve tourist needs more than local ones; here's a well-head -- but again, fresh water in Venice now comes from the mainland, rather than from the man-made aquifers under these wells; here's a cafe -- but note that it only has benches, a kind of temporary extension of an eating or drinking establishment. Not a decent cafe, with small tables & movable chairs. There are balconies, unused but by the flowers of window-boxes. There are trefoil windows, but no one is looking in or out. The only working apparatus is an awning, which an elderly gentleman is about to walk under, to get out of the sun for a moment. And, yet, the whole environment works -- it's profoundly comfortable and supportive for everyone there. If it were just a square with a perfectly flat, undifferentiated pavement, and blank walls, we'd think it was a prison. We know it's not : it was built, gradually, by real people, for real human-scale purpose. In this campo, we're surrounded by the force of structures ready to help us, and which have helped people in the past.


Post a Comment

<< Home