It’s funny what mundane, non-glamorous, things you end up missing from your city when they are taken away. Things that never would have even occurred to you as being important, or you’d have ever given a minute of thought to beforehand. How these are the bits that mean the most, and get you emotionally charged, when they finally return.
For me it’s been the lanes, alleyways, courtyards and nooks – the little secrets, private spaces of retreat and solace, the cat-like shortcuts and alternative paths. The routes of ‘local-knowledge’, which meander and wind their way through all towns and cities.
When almost all of your CBD gets flattened, bulldozed, and taken to the landfill – you’re left like a wild animal, a startled rabbit or fox, whose habitat has been cleared overnight. There’s nowhere to hide or take shelter, no bolt-holes or tunnels, and you’re left very cold and vulnerable. Your maze-like playground becomes block after block of vast, grey, windswept and barren land.
But things are changing.
In the past seven months, these passages, they’re returning. It started with a half-formed courtyard. Then a few weeks later, a building gets finished, and some temporary fencing removed, and now the courtyard is complete. Another two buildings get added, and suddenly you have a lane. More buildings create a lane shooting off the lane. Then, one glorious day, you turn a corner to discover that you’re able to cut your way through an entire block, without ever hitting a main road.
Now one block has become three. And the courtyards that are nestled within are plentiful. It might be mid-winter right now, but I’m already casting my mind ahead to summer in which I play through the multiple options of sheltered quiet, green, spaces. I will take myself off to one in my lunch break, kick off my sandals, and bask in the sun, whilst the busy world outside this architectural bubble keeps moving fast, oblivious to the fact that I have found such a perfect slice of calm.
I take great delight in asking myself the question “Which route shall I take today?” Because now there are several.
Trendy coffee bars, and little shops, are popping up along them. Communities are growing within. These are there places where my future self will meet-up with, dart down to avoid, or passionately embrace others. They are the veins of the city, and these people and activities are the blood, pumping through them, bringing life.
I’m filled with so much joy whenever I stumble across a newly completed area, taking my time to detour, explore and take it all in. We look ‘up’ a lot more than we used to. We’re hungry to see every angle, all 360 degrees of our environment. For this I’m grateful. We never used to do that.
We now savour and absorb this new-found urban depth.
Depth. That’s what it’s about. From this flat, blank, piece of A4 paper, a fold was made. And then another. And now, from that nothingness, this amazing, intricate, 3D origami sculpture is forming and evolving before our eyes. Like all of the great artistic masterpieces, it takes time, and it takes patience. Sure, mistakes may be made along the way, but it will be worth it. Because when a piece is complete, no one ever remembers or talks about the struggle of the journey, they only see and admire the end result.
My beloved little lanes, alleyways, courtyards and nooks.
Who knew that ‘normal’ could feel so good?