Saturday, June 29, 2013

Outdoor Pedestrian Mall Still Car Centered

On a recent car journey we had to stop to pee and pulled over in Hingham at this strange mall. The stores were all exterior accessed like a main street. Side by side chain stores with wood siding look and wide enough sidewalks bordering a sea of parking. Everything felt like Disney World with all familiar chain stores placed as if on main street except there was no street. Not even a pseudo town green for the storefronts to look across at. Just a giant lot of parking. Hence the vastness of the distance between one very long line of storefront to the opposite side indicated processing large crowds in a way. The incongruence between the desire to imitate a pedestrian friendly main street experience and the desire to place as many cars as possible as close to everything created an uncomfortable tension for me as a lover of urban space. How was it the developers missed the boat? Cars placed behind or to the side could have allowed the space across storefront walls to contain a town common or pedestrian street. This, although still removed from the town center and a auto accessed mall, would have at least created a true "place". Note to developers: please contact me or other urban planners to help you make places people will frequent for hundreds of years and not just 10 or so. We all want the same cozy pedestrian friendly town experiences. People actually like the surprise of parking and walking, turning the corner, and coming upon a fantastic street filled with activity!
Imagine if that giant parking space with buildings around it were much smaller and green and trees and the parking was behind the buildings (very well lit with very safe feeling)?


Kate. said...

Yuck. Not to mention the poor experience for those who do drive and have to walk across that parking lot - always looking for cars, potentially having to walk over medians and through landscaping. Why isn't there even pedestrian space - so that you don't have to walk in the roadway to the stores? (Goes for any large parking lot)

Michael Belleau Architect said...

There are sidewalks and lamps but the stores stare out at.... parking spaces instead of a plaza or pedestrian street or green. Strange. Like, hurry up and shop and then drive home to your driveway, your cars are waiting for you. Let's all admire our Lexus SUV's? Why not at least admire some gardens and sculptures and creative walking surface material and patterns?