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Placebook: War Zones and Playgrounds

Arial View of Playground. Image via The Transom.

Arial View of Playground. Image via The Transom.

What do we make of what I think is the real challenge presented by gentrification? That is, if people see the areas they are moving into or have lived in as war zones or playgrounds or both? For context, I define a war zone as an area where either residents are punished or sometimes killed while going about their daily business. Examples would be areas that are violent gang zones, areas where people live near toxic chemicals and areas where a neighbor is some form of nuisance. I define a playground in this sense as an area where people go to have fun, whether they are adults or children. Also, the area may have started as a war zone, but thanks to the desire of others to make it a playground, that’s precisely what it has become. I am not bemoaning areas of pleasure here, I just want us to think about those juxtapositions.

In the cover story of this month’s The Atlantic, the bulk of the story refers to The Land, a playground for children in the UK that is full of things that we would see in a toxic dump or a war zone. The premise of building this park came from ideas originally sprouted after  World War II times, to help children where bombs and other tools of war made regular neighborhoods look like this area. The modern version of the idea was to also create a space for children to learn how to be resilient and appreciate areas of danger, not run away or say they can’t conquer them. This article on The Transom goes even deeper and has more imagery, sound and observes as one is being built. There’s also a documentary and it’s mentioned in both stories. (Image above is from The Transom)

This very interesting use of public space has me asking even more questions. Are my definitions of war zones and playgrounds off base? Could they be one in the same and be productive? Of course we want more areas that are more like playgrounds, but life does challenge us, especially our practice of placemaking. What can we learn from putting two opposite ideas together, in more adult areas of our communities. Think on that with me, as you read today’s news and other views:

The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) has a new leader, from Ohio.

Winston-Salem City Council has put its support behind an east-west streetcar route connecting points through and near downtown.

Changes are coming to the state’s driver’s education program.

Forsyth County has approved an architect for the Winston-Salem central library and an amphitheater at Triad Park in Kernersville.

There are questions to the legality of Guilford County Schools June 16 makeup day.

The City of Greensboro is holding a food drive for those who lost food when power was lost during the last major winter storm.

Farmers around the Dan River ash spill met to discuss its impacts on them and their crops Monday night.

The Charlotte City Council has approved a new uptown office and residential tower development.

Apartment rents in Asheville and Wilmington have been deemed unaffordable by this years Out of Reach report, the annual national report released by the National Low Income Housing Center. Here is the full North Carolina report on housing affordability.

If you didn’t know it already (or have met one or two with your car) expect a lot of potholes until they are patched in the spring.

Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane pushes transit and design issues in her State of the City speech.

Pittsboro’s Board of Commissioners is still seeking answers on what the impact of Chatham Park, a development that will significantly increase the size of the town, will be.

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