Celebrating the city

After a very cold welcome to Edinburgh a couple weeks ago, today, our first full day in Glasgow, has the warmest weather of the trip — and I’m not complaining.  We have packed away our recently purchased woolen gloves and done what the locals do: headed to the park!

One of our hosts today at Unite suggested that, since the weather is brilliant, we visit the Botanical Gardens, located on the west side of the city.  A few of us took her advice and ventured by foot, a nice thirty minute jaunt.

This part of Glasgow really makes me appreciate city life.  In Glasgow (and, of course, other cities) when the weather is nice, people head outside — in parks, on city sidewalks — and collectively enjoy the city.  And they’re able to do this because of expertly planned public space.  Young, old, student, executive, unemployed, affluent — all — are able to gather in an area and celebrate the city.  As a result, the intentionally created space establishes harmony.  In Glasgow’s Botanical Gardens, the green spaces were dotted with people — almost side by side — chatting, playing games, or just basking in the sun.  Fellow ethnographer Steph Barnhart and I saw this, and discussed the benefits of public space.

Unlike a golf course country club or gated community park, this public space is open to all.  As a result, this is a prime spot for people of different backgrounds to mingle together.  In smaller communities and suburbs, this happens much more rarely.  People drive from work to home, park in their garages, and turn on the AC.  When they go out for a walk, it is generally within their own neighborhoods.

The city, a place where many people are gathered into a small area, needs a place where people can unwind and relax. These places are oftentimes the most memorable parts of an urban area. In New York, people enjoy beautiful Central Park with its trees, trails, and water.  In Chicago, people flock to Millennium Park to see The Bean and ice skate.  Public space, quite simply, makes a city a city.

So when I was walking through Glasgow’s gardens, I couldn’t be more happy to be in the city, and feel like a local.  Here’s to an excellent two weeks in Glasgow!

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