Monday, June 07, 2010

The sadness I feel for the grass in the Business Park

This was one of the posts on the 'never got round to it' list. So many things come into my head then go out of it again. But the grass in the Business Park hasn't gone away. I see a lot more of it than I used to, on account of getting the bus to work.*

The Business Park does not have a bus stop. It is designed for cars, and getting there by any other means can be challenging. You can cycle, and there is a cycle path of sorts, but you have to contend with kerbs or (what most people do) deal with a bike-lane-free roundabout. You can walk, but you will find there are only long ways round, and that there is only pavement on one, varying, side of the road. Or you can get the bus, which means getting off on the main road and then walking.

Which is all exercise, I guess, but you quickly find that the paths put there by the Business Park are more aesthetic than functional. They do not go where anyone wants to walk. So everyone walks on the grass. I counted the steps from the Business Park end of the footpath from the bus stop to the back door of the New Building if you follow the path: 470 steps. Then I counted the steps if you walk across the grass, cut through someone else's car park and climb through the bushes: 290 steps.

All the plants in the Business Park (with the honourable exception of a couple of magnolia stellata which have somehow snuck in) have that low-maintenance, block-colour municipal look. It's like they looked at the architects model, with bushes made out of coloured sponge, and bred real shrubs to look just like that. But it's greenery (and in the case of photinia, of which there is tons, reddery) and it seems to be thriving on all those bark chippings.

The grass is not so lucky. It is the kind of grass you see in the sale at B&Q, piled in crumbly, dehydrated rolls next to the wafer-thin sheds. It is not thick, it is not lush, it looks like it spent its early life in the grass equivalent of a battery shed. Nobody has ever loved it, nobody has ever sprinkled seeds on its bare patches and said 'please grow!'. It could pass muster from a distance, but you get the impression that the person who ordered it would secretly have preferred astroturf.

Grass of any kind is better than concrete, and easier to walk on than bark chippings, so I am not quite sure why it makes me so sad. I think it's because it sums up the joylessness of the business environment. This isn't even a bad one, and the New Building itself has much more going for it than many of its neighbours, but it says a lot that the central feature of the Business Park is a pond with a waterfall, and they put it on a roundabout.

There are thousands of people working there, but there is no communal area, no shops or cafes or services, except the ones in the individual buildings. At lunchtime, you can walk under the ring road to Tescopolis, you can get in your car and drive somewhere, or you can stay in your air-conditioned box.

So it remains that the best thing about the Business Park is the grass where the path out of it ought to be. It deserves to be better.


* There is more to say on the car saga too, but for now let's just say my knowledge of bus routes is higher than at any point since 1987.



Blogger Jeremy Dennis said...

I cut through from Barns Road when I come up for meetings in the PCT, straight through the shrubs and across the carpark. Not sure you can get across to NGO X from that angle...

9:53 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

Apparently OBP has "award winning landscaping, with mature trees and shrubs, water features and cycle tracks" - see But as we all know, when the nature of the award isn't specified, that's an automatic red flag.

8:49 am  
Blogger Andy said...

Great post - I cycled past OBP the other week and it always amazes me how short-sighted the planners were in making it a car-centric place. The gaps in the bushes made by real human beings are truly sad/funny.

9:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for a) a great post and b) allowing me to share my favourite factoid:

The lines cut across "designed" spaces by actual humans rejecting laid paths are know in the trade as "desire lines."

Which should be the title of a slim volume of urban poetry, right?


11:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

also, this makes me think of the film Office Space...


11:16 am  
Blogger Jo said...

Ben, that would be the 'Easily Appreciated From A Vehicle' category of the Low Maintenance Vegetation Awards.

And I love the fact that hundreds of people pushing their way through a bush create a 'desire line' in the process. I shall tell the grass. (But not the trees, the trees don't need to know).

In a separate conversation about this, K pointed out that the Finns work out where to build their paths by waiting till it snows and then looking at where the footprints are. Respect.

9:19 pm  

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