>Geese and Swans: Urban Planning in Cultural Context

>I went to hear a lecture on the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) movement.  This is a movement that is focused on transmitting knowledge on the planning elements that lead to creating successful public spaces and community.  For example, if public spaces have 10 different uses, then the chances of them being filled and vibrant are much higher than if the spaces are single purposes uses–and always include food!

The discussion that followed the lecture was quite interesting, because it involved trying to contextualize this movement into the Hong Kong experience.  Several planners and many geography and urban planning students were present and it was clear that the desire for more public space in Hong Kong is very strong.  Some of the challenges they described were the lack of democracy–what incentive was there for the government to respond to the popular will–and the overarching conflict between land values and public space with high land values always trumping the need for public space.

But one problem, I have to admit, I just would have not thought about.  Not too long ago, a public space was created with a nice pond with geese and swans.  Water is always a great draw in any culture, and who doesn’t like to take their children to feed the ducks and swans?  The geese and swans disappeared overnight.  I leave the rest of the story up to your imagination and the question of who was feeding whom.


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