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Could Greater Sudbury become Canada’s Central Park?

When Sudbury-born design guru Bruce Mau was in the city last fall speaking to civic leaders about how to build a better community, he spoke about the region’s great natural beauty, and the mess we humans have made of it (or at least some of it.)

While the region has breathtaking vistas and is recovering from the environmental sins of its fathers, there is too much unsightly development and urban sprawl. The heart of the city, the downtown core, is scared with parking lots.

“We do many things without considering the aesthetics,” Mau said in an interview. “This city is not a beautiful place, and that is an opportunity and a challenge.’

A more beautiful city would be inviting to newcomers while offering young people a reason to want to stay at home. It would also be a tourist attraction. (Spending money on roads and highways is an invitation for them to drive away, Mau said.)

He suggested Sudbury do something radical. People want to live in beautiful communities. Greater Sudbury should consider itself one huge city park, or a city within a park, and be governed by rules and regulations one might expect in a provincial park.Visitors to provincial parks are careful about where they dump garbage and take pains not to spoil its natural beauty.

It’s funny. When Mau suggests something, we think he is a genius. When one of our own residents suggests the same thing, we call that person a nut!

We have work to do in the Park of Greater Sudbury. We need to believe in ourselves, and as Stephen Fry, the British writer and actor, says, “stop crapping in our own nests.”

 

background notes:

Bruce Mau in Maclean’s

Bruce Mau was interviewed this past January in Maclean’s magazine about a variety of things, including his hometown.

He told the interviewer.”I’m not interested in producing a vision of Sudbury. They have lots of those. What they need is a methodology for execution…They graduate about 5,000 university students a year and almost all of them leave. Something we’re doing is sending the wrong message. I showed them the original landscape. Then I showed them four typical street corners, and said, you started with this extraordinary landscape, the subject of the Group of Seven, and this is what you did with it. If a kid walks in this environment, what story are you telling him? You’re basically telling him, get your stuff and get the hell out of here as fast as you can. If you want him to imagine his future here, you have to think of the story differently.”

 

Ugly Wallpaper

Stephen Fry, host of Stephen Fry on America , comments on Oscar Wilde statement that the United States was a violent country because it had ugly “wallpaper.”

“If we look out of the window into our world, we see things that are universally and entirely beautiful from nature. Whether they be palm trees swaying in an island, whether they be the arctic wastes, whether they be deserts, tundra steps. It doesn’t matter where you look in the world, we see nothing but beauty. Unconditional, remarkable beauty. Except where man has intervened.

And what (Oscar) Wilde is saying is, imagine belonging to a species where all you believe that all you can do to the world is to uglify it. To make it worse. To despoil it. Which is what we do. We know that now in real and profound and terrible ways that Wilde couldn’t have known about because the science hadn’t yet discovered quite how harmful we are as a species to our planet. But he could see that we were harmful to our planet in terms of its aesthetics. That we were making the earth uglier. Uglier with bad architecture, uglier with badly designed factories, uglier with badly stamped out tin trays and cheap ornaments, ugly with appalling wallpaper. And if you’re someone who grows up in such an environment, who is surrounded by badly made ugly things, then you think ugly thoughts of yourself and world. You think ugly thoughts of your whole species. There is nothing for you to do but to, to, to crap in your own nest. It’s what we do when we don’t believe in ourselves.”

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