Hello!  I’ve been in London for ten days, spending the summer here doing research.  I’m not sure I actually liked London during previous visits here.  I thought it was too busy, and coming after Italy or Berlin it seemed, I don’t know, vulgar or something.  And I couldn’t handle the food/cost situation.  But this is my first extended time here, and so far I like the city a lot more.  I’m also coming here to study it, so I have maybe a different attitude.

First, I like being in a walking city again.  I feel like I do more exercise just getting where I need to go here than I ever do on a daily basis in Los Angeles.  Along with that comes density, of course, and people and crowds which can be awful (in the subway, for example (sorry, tube)), but mostly give a sense of excitement.  I’ve of course found my vegetarian cafe for my daily coffee, called the Gallery Cafe.  This one is open relatively late and has a full menu plus beer and wine, and shows movies or has music or whatever some evenings.  Finding this was of course first order of business.

My research is on how urban development here has exacerbated or been used to mediate social or political tensions here, particularly looking at the role of ‘nature,’ however defined.  It might be an opportune time to study such a thing, because it seems like there are a lot of artists and architects create garden-y public spaces.  The benefits of ‘community gardens’ seem now obvious, or as a fairly normal thing to do with space, but I’m still wondering why public art is taking this form (as one of my sub-questions, perhaps).  Especially since not all of the spaces primarily gear themselves towards sustainable food production.

So one of these spaces is called the Urban Physic Garden, which is in a space near the tate modern that changes in theme every year.  Last year it was an orchard.  This year the theme seems to be medicinal plants, though they also have all sorts of other things and one of the most interesting thing about it is just the way they’ve laid out the space.

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A local non-profit was there when I went, holding an event to draw attention to the space.  This mostly meant a child’s drawing area and balloons, but they were very nice.  As you can see, I found the space very photogenic, especially the way that the wooden structures create layers in any image.  I also liked the juxtaposition of the garden and the ‘city,’ of course, being that it was right next to an overground line.  The space is also non-functional in the sense that I don’t think they intend for the plants they are growing to be used for any medicinal purposes.  It’s more a museum of medicinal plants, complete with lunch-lectures about the topic and others.  So the place itself seems to be a contained spatial art project, and I’m curious to know why this and not some other things.  I think the children might be the key here, because there is among these spaces a desire to get children involved, and to teach them and the adults about nature, or food, or sustainable living, or art.

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