by Mateja Mihinjac
During our SafeGrowth classes, we conduct a tabletop exercise called a ‘design charrette’ based on designing an urban park. The purpose is to teach students how to use collaborative design when they begin their crime prevention work.
In almost every case the teams end up placing a circular design into the centre of their park – a water feature, park gazebo, or perhaps a children’s play area. In over 20 years of running this exercise, virtually every class comes up with some circular feature dead centre in their park.
There is something psychologically ingrained about centrally located social gathering places, echoing the tribal campfires of ancient times. In fact, we have archaeological evidence of the power of tribal campfires going back 50,000 years.
It is as if our collective human culture seeks to gather around those ancient campfires of prehistoric times for safety, storytelling and celebration. It is a cultural meme that remains in our subconscious.
KRESOVANJE – BONFIRE FESTIVAL
This cultural meme also has a tradition in Slovenia. Following a 2-year hiatus due to COVID, this year’s May 1st celebrations finally brought back the beloved Slovenian tradition – the bonfire festival or “kresovanje” in Slovene.
May 1st symbolises International Workers’ Day (also known as Labour Day or May Day) which commemorates the historic struggles and gains of the labour movement. In 1889 the international federation of socialist groups and trade unions designated May 1st as an international holiday, which has since become a public holiday in many countries around the world.
While on May 1st many countries observe formal public events, marches, parades and more or less peaceful demonstrations, in Slovenia we also burn bonfires on the night of 30 April. It turns out these bonfires have a symbolic meaning – perhaps a cultural reflection of the human tendency to seek out central places that we discover time and time again in our classroom exercises.
SYMBOLISM OF BONFIRES
Bonfires originate from a pagan tradition believing that the strength of fire supports the sun to strengthen its power and shine with full strength as summer starts to approach.
However, with the emergence of the Labour movement bonfires acquired a somewhat different purpose. They were used as a highly visible communication tool that accompanied the marches and public speeches and were intended to increase awareness about the workers’ rights.
Today, the bonfire festivals in Slovenia hold largely a social gathering role. While commemorating the importance of the workers’ unions through speeches, the bonfire festival also includes live music celebration, food and drink stalls with the ritual of bonfire burning and people gathering around the fire representing the highlight of the evening.
Events such as bonfire festivals are fuel for the community. In SafeGrowth we refer to the cultural principle that represents actions of the heart. These are the instincts that show up in our classes on the design-a-park charrette. Just imagine how much progress in neighbourhood development we could achieve by combining actions of the heart with those of the mind – systematic and organised actions to enhance social cohesion!
by Tarah Hodgkinson
A few weeks ago, we decided to take a drive out to Grimsby, a small city on the shore of Lake Ontario for a hike. We found a charming coffee shop, some neat stores, and one of the most interesting examples of community culture I have ever seen.
We parked our car and strolled through the roundabout and surrounding streets to find several houses in the area painted up in the funky colours of Painted Ladies architecture. Many folks who live in Southwestern Ontario will be familiar with the Painted Ladies. These are a collection of houses that feature wild colour palettes and thematic designs.
This now popular tourist destination was once a Methodist camp along Lake Ontario. The neighbourhood then transitioned to beach cottages. When the Methodist camp went bankrupt in the early 1900s, the area was replaced with an amusement park. After that closed in the 1930s, the remaining cottages were built up, winterized and decorated to reflect their interesting past.
Interestingly, homes in the Painted Lady architectural style are not that unusual. Old Victorian and Edwardian houses, or in this case cottages, are repainted in bright colours to enhance their architectural features and embellish their historical heritage.
Other areas of the world also participate in the tradition of painting their houses bright colours including parts of Copenhagen, Ireland, and San Francisco. I would argue that none are as creative, or as individual and unique, like those in Grimsby.
What is great about these houses, besides their fun designs, is that they create a community culture. The space is activated and people are present. Neighbours are out talking to each other and visitors to the area. The sense of place is strong and the houses, while equally bold in their colour choices, represent the individual personality of their residences. The curving and narrow road paths reflect a road network that has prioritized walking over cars. The colours are bright, not worn, reflecting that they are often updated and maintained.
We often speak about the role of second-generation CPTED principles on this blog. These include culture. The Painted Ladies reflect not only a way to activate space (1st generation advanced CPTED), but also bring folks together through a process of constantly building and rebuilding their local sense of place.
Like the painted intersections in Portland, or the penguin art across Penguin, Australia, these traditions not only build culture but also contribute to socially cohesive neighbourhoods.