Sunday, January 17, 2010

the consolation of town planning

Sometimes a whimsical observation you read stays with you for days; this was the case with one of Wendy's recent posts over at her Wendy House blog. It was only a light-hearted quip on her part, but it struck me as the kind of playful, sudden thought that shouldn't be mistaken for a hackneyed one. I've heard the phrase 'relief road' a million times, but somehow never quite noticed it's charming quality. Wendy writes:

Here in the UK we have roads who’s whole purpose is to provide relief, relief Roads.

The pleasingly named Rose Kiln Lane is a Berkshire relief road. Roads that provide relief. A very pleasing idea.

Having a stressful day at work? Then visit Rose Kiln Lane to find relief.

Nothing more to it than that. But the phrase has stayed with me. If only the government really did build infrastructure designed solely to console.

Incidentally, I just bought Anna Minton's 'Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty First Century City', which I think will be an interesting read, and I hope to blog about it in the future. The Guardian review of the book, which alerted me to its existence, begins:
The important thing about a castle is not that it is comfortable, but that it is secure, which makes the Englishman's proverbial urge to live in one rather bleak. Against whom are we fortifying our homes, if not one another? We pretend that our property obsession is a lifestyle choice, but it could just be misanthropy: worshipping the private retreat out of distaste for being in public. If so, the problem stems from bad policy as much as national character. The British approach to managing urban space is utterly wrong, according to Anna Minton in Ground Control. Successive governments have conspired, Minton argues, to create environments that make people suspicious of one another. That makes them miserable. We are one of the saddest, loneliest peoples of Europe.
Sounds like it might be fascinating.

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