Tiredstars's Reviews > Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty First Century City

Ground Control by Anna Minton
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really liked it

If you go to the Broadmead shopping area in Bristol there are benches where you can sit and lean back and admire the weird pole things that pass for decoration or sculpture in the area. Right next to Broadmead, in the Cabot Circus shopping centre, you can sit admiring the vaulting glass roof and looking down at people milling down into the centre's plaza. But the benches there are giant flat blocks of stone. Lots of people seem to prefer to sit on the steps instead.

Why are those benches so obviously uncomfortable? Ground Control suggests an answer. One is a public space, in which "doing nothing" is an accepted activity. The other is a private space where spending money is the only acceptable activity. If you want to watch the world go by, pick one of the chairs at Café Rouge and purchase a coffee.

One of the criteria for a good book should be that it makes you look at the world differently.

I started reading Ground Control in an airport, which have to be one of the greatest expressions of the "clean and safe" philosophy. It's cliché to point out how much like malls airports are (or vice-versa), but the book helped some things about airports click into place for me, including some of the differences between airports and malls.

The book is 'journalistic' in style, certainly. Much of the evidence is a little light, and (as another review points out) the comparisons with other European countries are shallow and a bit trite. The chapters are in digestible article chunks, at some expense to a thoroughgoing argument. That's not always a bad thing, though, and I appreciated it being an easy read.

It's also made me want to find out some more about this sort of thing - for example, the point that government house-building targets are entirely unrealistic for the private sector alone to meet, and the way that 'secured by design' pushed by police, insurers, etc. stymies even good intentions by architects and developers. One thing I know from studying a tiny bit of modern British social history is that it's dominated by housing. These things are long-term and they're important.
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Reading Progress

June 16, 2014 – Started Reading
June 16, 2014 – Shelved
June 28, 2014 – Finished Reading

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