Waking up this morning on the tenth floor of a building in Holborn to sky and rooftops, the tip of The Shard, the dome of St Paul’s, a terrace with two chrome cafe-tables (no chairs), glass and brick and railings, a crane in the distance, the memory from yesterday afternoon when I arrived here of a man in the office building across the way. A cleaner? The last person to leave work? The evening had been mild. I’d gone out for a burger, then come back to the room to read, to have some quiet. A phrase from the book stays with me, Ann Carson’s comment on reading as an “imaginal adventure.” particularly when reading something with a fragmented structure. And the importance of white spaces.
This view is the opposite of a park.
In the morning I go to the symposium on art and mapping at the London Transport Museum. I think about the Park. I think about the word “park” and for the first time since beginning this project I realise it’s a verb, too. A word that means to put, to set, to position, to lay. Go on, park that here. Park your car. Look at him, parking himself down on that bench. And the more I think about the word, the more it seems like the opposite of a park. To park is to settle, to be in one place, to never move, at least not for a while, at least that’s the promise.
The Park (on the other hand?) is play and movement and surprises and journeys. The Park is about change, about transformation, about honoring the movement of nature. Ah, yes, but it all happens in a framed space, contained… parks parked at various points throughout the city.
The view from a 10th floor window in Covent Garden is anything but parkland. The city from this high up is a place that sits, parked before you, unmoving, the buildings so close together the streets are hidden, and without streets there are no cars, no pedestrians. And at this time of the morning – but the windows are so small, anyway – you can’t see any people moving around indoors.
Buildings are the opposite of a Park. They are there to cover up the land. The Park is there to reveal it, restore it, retain it. A Park brings nature to the city, parks it there; buildings take it away. A building is a gesture of erasure. Watch me make the earth disappear!
It’s hard to imagine Clissold Park ever being covered over. But it almost happened over a hundred years ago when the developers were ready to turn the land into houses. It feels like it’s here to stay. It’s as if once a piece of land has become a park, it will remain like that forever. That’s the promise. The park is parked there, an oasis in the landscape of brick and concrete and macadam. Who would build over a park? Around the park, things change. The tower blocks that overlooked Clissold Park – was it just the one, or were there more? – were demolished some years back. I remember the rubble that sat there for weeks, twenty storeys or more reduced to a pile of cement and glass and iron bars. Recently a building in the park was demolished and will be replaced by a Tennis Club-House.
So it’s the Park that stays, shifting and changing within the confines of its perimeter fence. A canvas. Exposed.