Planning Ahead

How would you like to see Union Square evolve?

Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of speaking with one Precinct Bar’s servers.  He had just turned 21, but had worked at the bar for a few years and lived in Union Square since he was a child.  Our conversation about how the square should develop was characteristic of relational/lived space.

In the conversations I had that day, much was said about the underlying philosophies and values of Union Square. Even when we talked about changing physical attributes of the square, there were still underlying reasons for these changes and they centered on preservation.  This discussion was really about imagining the process of change, and reflecting on what would be the best direction for Union Square to develop.

Several people were talking about this as a group, but as the conversation started with the server I will credit him for leading with this idea.  “I would rather see more [trash] barrels put out rather than see the Green Line extended”.  This comment took me by surprise.  As the server lived, worked, and grew up in the square he was protective of it.  He didn’t want to see it change or get dirtied.  He didn’t want to see trash barrels because he thought they would add to the square – he wanted to see them because it would preserve and protect it.

The music teacher I was speaking with earlier also found this conversation interesting.  He really liked how Union Square was incorporating art into public places.  He cited the benches as being a great addition to the square.  However, he didn’t want to see Union Square explode into a mecca for the arts.  “I’m just afraid that they will be trying too hard and it will just be phony”.  While the teacher valued the public art, he didn’t like the idea of flooding the square with art in order to draw in artists or visitors.  He wanted the art in the square to be authentic, and in that way to preserve the character of the square.

Preservation and protectionism were the defining topics in our discussion regarding the future of Union Square.  In this imagined process, although there would be physical changes, everyone I spoke with wanted the essence of Union Square to remain the same.  Nobody was against progress, but it seemed that everyone had a protectionist view, at least to some degree.  This conversation seemed to perfectly show the tension between relational (the process of city planning) and lived (the imagined future, and how it would feel if the square’s character were to change) space.