Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Peds on Weds: Back turned on the public realm

[Note: at 2pm today, the pedestrian advocacy group Walk Ottawa will be holding a ceremony to place a pedestrian memorial marker at Rideau and Waller, where a pedestrian lost her life to a tractor-trailer in February. Details can be found here, here, and here]

This is a topic I wanted to post about months ago but never got around to, around when Urbsite thoroughly covered the 1970's guidelines for a second-floor enclosed pedestrian system. These guidelines implemented ideas envisioned by such documents as the 1965 Hammer Report (discussed in this post of mine) for a completely segregated pedestrian system, which would allow motorists dominion over the street-level public right-of-way downtown:

Urbsite is almost finished its nine-part series on the planning and (more planning, and) development of the Rideau Centre. In the most recent post, instalment 8 of 9, the author used a bunch of photos I'd taken which I shared with him. (I figured letting him post my best Rideau Centre pics would help me focus on Centretown... I'm not sure that worked!)

I took this photo this past Boxing Week, showing the wider of the two pedestrian overpasses/skywalks/pedways between the Rideau Centre and the Bay. The Bay has made use of this space for additional merchandising. It's perhaps not the best use of such a space, but at least it's being used. This was envisioned in the plans for the Rideau Centre skywalks, and for Ottawa's skywalks in general:

In this photo, one of the ones used on Urbsite, we can see how this affects the outside though. As hinted by the phrase "inward-facing merchandise" in Urbsite's caption for this photo, the merchandise is entirely focused on the shoppers inside the skywalk. As if the skywalk doesn't close in the streetscape enough on its own, the Bay's merchandise literally turns its back on the thousands of potential customers outside.

It doesn't need to. The little drawings of skywalks envisioned in the '70s showed lots of space around the shopping racks, where shoppers could peruse, peer out, and peer in. The skywalk was an extension of the public realm, but instead it has become part of the closed-off public space. They could have at least hung some display merchandise on the backs of the cabinets to serve as long-distance window-shopping!

I highly recommend reading Urbsite's series on the development of the Rideau Centre. It's a fascinating story with many twists and turns (and period images!) Start with part 1 here.

[Tune in on Wednesdays at noon for a new pedestrian-themed blog post. View the Pedestrians label for previous Peds on Weds posts]

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