How Do You Define Open Space? – Kerala

by Jason on January 4, 2012

Where is the green?

During a lecture given by Dr. Kannan, Chairman of COSTFORD and Member, Executive Committee of the Laurie Baker Center, I asked him about open spaces in Trivandrum and Kerala. Through all the driving, I’ve only seen one park, which held an old mansion conceded to a museum and a zoo. Since then, I have been keeping an eye out for green public spaces, kept lawns, landscaped shrubbery, and patterned trees as seen in that park and in my other parks in the United States.

There are parks, but Dr. Kannan suggested I challenged he notion of parks in terms of American standards, which I realized, I was doing. I asked as to why there was a lack of parks in Kerala, especially with such densification. Wouldn’t some open and green relief be welcomed?

Dr. Anthony gave me a clarification in why this may be he reason: development is dense along arterial roads. They are so dense to the point that you wouldn’t be able to see beyond more urbanization, but if you just go a few blocks off the main road, you will be transplanted into a place that just seems far away. This occurred on the way to the Laurie Baker Center for Habitat Studies. After a left turn and two blocks, I felt like I was transplanted in the mountains, surrounded by rubber tree plantations.

So where do people gather? Where are the plazas and parks that American planners thirst so much for as a panacea to any planning problems? Well, they aren’t needed. As I write this on the van driving to the centre, observing what is going on outside, I see people sitting around trees, gathering by walls, or loitering around shops. The storefront and the home front are heir public spaces for gathering.

Green relief isn’t even fully necessary. Not only can you expect informal dwellings in forms of slums to sprout if the park becomes in disuse, but development seems in such high demand along the main roads. Everyone has access to green just away from the street, where you may have to go anyways sometime during your day. A conventional park with its even cut grass and artistic bushes isn’t necessary, or even efficient. You have so much green space in your backyards already.

I am realizing that there is no need for a clear distinction between where to gather and gain relief if the possibility for such refuge is interwoven with the basic street structure. Sitting under a tree with a group of friends, sneaking a cigarette outside a corner store with buddies, or hanging wet saris with other women together are all the gathering places you need, as they are the places you use without realizing you are using it.

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