One of the first articles I wrote for Perth Urbanist was all about Perth's identity. After reading it for the first time in a while I feel that I provided more problems than solutions (a bad habit). As a result I have decided to go back and rehash the article, focusing on some of the ways that we can grow community and identity within Perth.
I could write an article that was about a number of different ways to increase community and identity in Perth however I thought I would focus on writing a more practical guide for ways residents can get involved.
Guerilla Urbanism and Urban Hacking
I am a huge believer in the idea of individuals having ownership over 'the third place'. For those who have never heard the term; 'the first place' is home, 'the second place' is work and 'the third place' is obviously neither of those locations. They are instead the places we socialise and have our greatest interaction with the city. The shops, bars, cafes and cinemas that make a city truly great.
Historically cities have been changed and altered by the people who live within them, creating a strong sense of connection between residents and the built form. Recently we have lost that connection and many people feel a lack of ownership over their city. In reaction to this many have taken it on themselves to by-pass the bureaucracy of local government in the form of 'guerilla urbanism' and 'urban hacking'. A great example of this is local business adding bike racks outside their shop fronts for costumers to use. Not only does this behaviour encourage bike use. It also provides a service to the city and in my eyes, most importantly breaks down the wall of private vs public land.
So whether you are fixing up a lane way near your house with potted plants and street art, yarn bombing, putting seating somewhere that lacks facilities or painting a zebra crossing at a busy road crossing, you can contribute to your city in your own way. These installations have the potential to become points of chance social interaction and it is in these social interactions that communities are created. Remember that the place you live goes beyond your front door. Also I feel that I should point out that guerilla urbanism is not technically legal and can get you in a lot of hot water so if you are contemplating it make sure you show some due diligence.
Continuing on the ownership theme, crowd-funding in recent years has proven to be a powerful tool for directing investment and building a sense of community. Institutions and clubs are fantastic for building community and identity as well as producing chance social interactions. In an economic climate where local governments are suffering from increasingly tight budgets, using crowd-funding can be a fantastic way for raising funds from within a community for projects and events.
The benefits do not only end with the local authority's bottom line, it can also increase the potential success of such projects. For example say the purpose of a crowd-funding campaign was to raise money for a community centre. All the people who gave money would be more likely to use the centre due to them being initial investors and having a stake in the project. There are obvious pitfalls with crowd-funding and the measure should be used sparingly in order not to over saturate the market for them however they are a great tool to have in any urbanist's arsenal.
Invest in the culture we want to see
Become an advocate for the changes you want to see in Perth. Whether that is less draconian liquor laws or better bicycle infrastructure never underestimate the power a letter to your councillor or local newspaper can have in guiding the public discourse. By investing in these changes we are backing the cultural future that we want to see in Perth.
You can find the contact details of your local councillors very easily online so if you have a pet peeve or, even better, if you have an idea you should always get in touch with your representatives. After all that is what they are there for and you may be informing them of something or providing a perspective they have never thought about before.
Think outside the box
There are many ways to build identity that may not come to mind straight away and at first glance they may not seem of any particular importance. A great example of this is developing a brand for your city. It is a common behaviour now for larger cities to produce a logo however some are taking this idea to the next level.
Chattanooga was rather progressive in this regard when a group of graphic designers using kickstarter created a typeface called 'Chattype'. The City of Chattanooga has now adopted it as their official typeface which will be used for documents produced by the City and any signage for government institutions. If something as simple as a homogeneous and unique typeface can create community think of all the other ways we can think outside the box to increase Perth's community, culture and identity.
Lastly you can simply get involved in the conversation. Places like our humble website 'Perth Urbanist' are great for grassroots discussion to take place. This discussion informs our views and it feeds into the boardrooms and hallways where decisions are made. If you are interested in the future of Perth the worst thing you can do is stay silent and keep your thoughts and ideas to yourself.