We’ve discussed the ideas of William Whyte before, most recently in August following the release of designs for the new Devon Energy tower.
At the time I focused on Whyte’s teachings on the “blank wall,” specifically the cold steel, concrete and glass office towers built in urban centers the past 50 years that had no interaction with pedestrians on the ground floor.
But there’s more to Whyte’s legacy – much more.
Whyte’s “Street Life Project,” which I referred to in my last writing, is a fundamental step toward understanding proper city design for pedestrians. And with Jeff Speck completing a report on how Oklahoma City can improve its downtown for pedestrians, it’s not a bad time to get more acquainted with Whyte’s ideas on this subject, which were summarized in the 1988 book “City: Rediscovering the Center.”
At the heart of Whyte’s thinking is the challenge to conventional thinking, that jaywalking might not be so horrible, that interaction between pedestrians and vehicular traffic doesn’t have to be death defying.
In my previous post on Whyte I included one of his graphics on the “Street Life Project.” Oh how I wish Whyte were still alive so that he could have had fun with a clip like this one, as featured at www.imaginativeamerica.com:
Launch day of Toronto's first scramble intersection at Yonge and Dundas.
We can learn even more from Whyte, as we prepare to overhaul the Myriad Gardens and potential build a new “central park” in the Core to Shore area immediately south.
Consider Bryant Park in New York City, in which he consulted in its restoration plan in 1980 and its most current incarnation.
Let the following videos serve as a tour of Bryant Park and inspiration for what is possible:
(Below, join an average family as they enjoy one of the park’s most popular attractions)
I wonder how many of Whyte’s ideas can be implemented in the next few years as part of the Devon Tower tax increment financing district. Imagine, if you will, people playing chess in the park. Imagine a lively outdoors that brings the community together. What’s amazing is what I heard with my own ears is being contemplated by Mayor Mick Cornett. We’ll wait for Monday to delve into how all these ideas are in the mix here in Oklahoma City and what it means for our future.
For now, anyone interested in how we can create a great central park or improve the Myriad Gardens, or possible improvements to downtown’s streetlife, should visit the Whyte-inspired Project for Public Spaces at www.pps.org.