Michael’s choice for a great TEDx talk: Cats in Space – Toms Kokins – TEDx Riga 2012

Some TEDx videos have had hun­dreds of thou­sands of views. I wanted to sur­face one with just a few hun­dred.

Toms Kokins spoke at TEDxRiga about some­thing that’s import­ant and rel­ev­ant to Can­ber­ra: the design and qual­ity of pub­lic spaces. Toms starts off with the obser­va­tion that cats don’t like too-large spaces, then looks at how humans behave – which, it turns out, is pretty much the same way.

Inter­est­ing ideas con­nect to and remind us of oth­er con­cepts: for me, Chris­topher Alexander’s A Pat­tern Lan­guage which dis­cusses how humans respond to archi­tec­tur­al and urb­an space, and the much more recent pho­to­graph­ic explor­a­tions by Dav­id Yoon, who won­ders what Los Ange­les would be like if the city was built for human beings, not for cars.

Like many mod­ern cit­ies, Can­ber­ra has been badly served by urb­an design­ers think­ing about pub­lic space from the per­spect­ive of a satel­lite, not that of a human being. On one side of the Play­house build­ing, a three-lane high­way cuts off the very centre of the city from any human con­tact. On the oth­er side, a too-large square has under­gone attemp­ted remedi­ation with an aggress­ively ugly foun­tain. Fur­ther afield, Lake Bur­ley Griffin is cut off from the city by Parkes Way.

Good spaces seem to hap­pen more by acci­dent than by plan­ning – or at least, plan­ning as it’s been prac­ticed in the last cen­tury. How can we make our urb­an spaces more human?

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