As humans we are always quick to rationalize or dismiss things that we no longer value. After all, the world doesn’t rotate the sun, it centers on us. We really can’t see the world through other eyes, so we make our judgments based on the most respected and qualified person we know, and it is us.
The truth is, even if you don’t understand the sport or like sports at all, the most popular team sports in the world are Soccer (football), Cricket and Field Hockey. The most spoken language on earth is Mandarin-Chinese. The largest parking lot in the world is in Edmonton, Alberta at the West Edmonton Mall (20,000 spaces, are there that many cars in Alberta?). Of course there are that many cars in Edmonton and billions of Chinese can’t be expected to speak English or Spanish, but how come they don’t follow NASCAR or the NFL?
Successful urban planners and managers run into the same problems of public perception and structural reality. It is irresponsible and utter lunacy to over-build without consideration for sustainable activity. Crowds are an essential element of success and when they occur with regular frequency, they spawn greater growth to meet the demand. In the restaurant business (at least here in the Gaslamp*) you always fill your patio first (the window booths on our three cold days of the year) because it brings even more customers. Nightclubs want lines, because demand creates greater demand. Neighborhoods are safer when people walk the sidewalks in high numbers, at all hours. Sidewalks have to be heavily traveled to create the critical shopping activity to support a healthy retail sector.
Shopping malls have used a similar idea of creating traffic through anchor stores to support the high number of smaller, lease paying tenants. Artificially creating massing locations (food courts and performance areas) to accentuate the “popularity” of the destination and justify the decision of the customer to return. If this wasn’t true, why would people suffer through these captive environments during the winter holiday season?
The urban success model is sustainable when planners, architects and managers stress the creation of environments that encourage massing and interaction. This should not be taken as justification to limit park and open space in the urban setting. Rather I would offer that urban open spaces are key locations for celebratory massing, entertainment and group solitude. So for all of you who are crowd adverse but would still like to park right out front, get your favorite table and be the center of attention, my advice is; valet, reservations, tip big and enjoy your position of authority.
*The Gaslamp Quarter is the historic district of San Diego’s downtown and a prime dining & entertainment destination.