Appearance - Part Two
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One discussed the appearance of bridges, which is only one small factor
in the surroundings in which we live and move. This page refers to
the appearance of our surroundings in a much broader sense. But it
is not taking sides, and it is not trying to making any points about the
desirability or otherwise of the factors that are mentioned. The
page is offered more in the spirit of questioning rather than answering.
What do we mean by an attractive appearance? Many people would agree that places like Firenze, Ljubljana, Praha and Venice are pleasant places to visit. What they usually mean is that they like going to such places as a tourist. They do not usually mean that every part of such places is worth seeing. And relatively few places are built specifically for tourism.
Whether we live in city, town, village or open country, how much of our surroundings is under our control, even partially?
This web-site is being made in England. Most people in England live in towns or cities, and, in most cases, in houses that looks very similar to those around it. If we are lucky enough, we can choose where to live. The appearance of the neighbourhood, and the town in which it lies, may be factors in this choice. To that extent we have controlled our surroundings by choosing to live where the surroundings are what we like. But what if our neighbours do something we don't like?
They might want to put a giant model of a starfish on their roof. They might want to allow a cell-phone company to build an antenna tower in their garden. Extending the idea of surroundings to sound, they might play noisy music. They might set up large smelly fires to burn rubbish. We, in our turn, might paint or plaster our house in a way that doesn't fit in with the neighbourhood, as envisaged by the local people.
We might wish to design and build a house which might be disliked by our neighbours, or disapproved of by the authorities. What about innovation and creativity?
Life is a series of compromises. Even within our own house, we may not all agree on the contents and where they should be placed. But what about public areas? How do we settle for a way that is acceptable to everyone?
This web-site is being made in a town: let's call it Oldcaster, because parts of some buildings are 800 years old, and also because ancient Romans occupied a part of the site. Even now, a main road into the town follows more or less the alignment of a Roman road, and it is, like many another Roman route in England, lined with suburban houses, small shops and petrol stations. Along the route may be small villages that have become parts of the big town. A walk along such a road can reveal all sorts of things that you wouldn't have time to notice from a car. From the upper deck of a bus you can see far more than from a car. Here are some pictures taken along a "Roman road", from the outskirts to the centre of the town. They are shown in order, from outskirts to centre.
A part of Oldcaster's town centre, like many in England, is less than fifty years old, not because it was bombed during the war of 1939 to 1945, but because those in charge of the town decided to knock down older buildings and put up a "modern" centre. The new part is along the same general lines as those of many other English towns. Here are some pictures taken in the town. living-gloucester living gloucester living.gloucester
Numerous currently used buildings have plants, often quite large, growing out of chimneys, gutters, window sills and walls. In fact, any place where dust, dirt and moisture an collect can be a haven for plants.
Near to Oldcaster is a much more recently established town, which we will call Newchester, was once a fashionable resort. It still has many elegant buildings, many of which are now offices or apartments rather than dwellings for the rich. Some of Newchester's inhabitants seem to feel that the long-gone status of the town still attaches itself to them as individuals. Newchester has an annual Festival of Literature, an annual Festival of Music, and an annual Festival of Science. Oldcaster has little activity of this kind. How do such differences arise and perpetuate themselves? To some extent they are self-perpetuating because people tend to live in places which support their interests, if they can afford it, and if the location of their work permits it.
One of the peculiarities of human nature is that the people of two nearby communities, whether they be schools, suburbs, towns, counties or even countries, are liable to develop antagonistic feelings. One group may feel "superior" to the other, causing the other group to feel resentful. Few people from Newchester will consider going to Oldcaster to do their shopping, whereas the reverse is true of the Oldcastrians - many go the other way. East Egg and West Egg in "The Great Gatsby" illustrate this very well. This kind of "spontaneous symmetry breaking" existed long before the idea became fashionable in physics.
Here are some pictures taken in Newchester, which in 2002 acquired a new bridge.
Building is one thing: maintaining is another. A few years ago, in Oldcaster, a leaflet was distributed, which included coloured pictures of litter, designed to explain the grades of litter from A to D, in order of severity, to enable people to report them accurately to the authorities. Letters to the local newspaper show that some of the population are very concerned about the appearance of their town. Topics have included flocks of seagulls, chewing gum on pavements, dog excreta and seagull excreta on pavements, beggars, buskers, homeless vendors of "Big Issue", graffiti, and sculptures. What is the answers to all this? Are there any answers? Should there even be any answers?
On a smaller scale, in a single street, someone can be censured for having the only untidy garden in a street, someone else for a boat or a caravan in the front garden, and yet another person for having an unusual hair-style or unusual clothes.
Where do we stand in the spectrum between tidyism and anarchy?
See also Problem page.
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