Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Canada Day


I was in Ottawa this week, enjoying perfect weather and the prettier parts of the city. As we walked, my husband and I noticed the difference between the Byward Market (built for people) and the bleak prospects of the business district (built for someone's idea of convenience or power?). Similar differences exist between government buildings built to pull the spirit upwards (the Parliament buildngs, the National Gallery) and public edifices (an ugly word for huge, ugly blocks of buildings).

Why do we find it so difficult to believe that what is good for the soul can also be good for business? How many people look at a business plan and ask "where is the beauty in this? where is the joy? what part of this business will make people glad to be interacting?"

It is not the job of artists or architects to encourage us to embrace what it means to live together in community. That's our job. Artists and architects can support us but they cannot do all the work. If we want to interact at street level, we have to spend our money and our influence to insist that the structures within which we work - including but not limited to buildings - make it easier for us to notice what it means to be human and to be together. That means street-level interaction with co-workers and acquaintances and strangers. It means something to attract the eye and draw it upwards and outwards.

It means remembering that business and government both exist in support of the idea that we live better when we live together.

Happy Canada Day.

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