Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Creating a Courtyard for Contemplation Out of an Urban Alleyway

I was walking through downtown San Francisco yesterday morning, on one of the busiest streets in the city center, and I noticed this little alleyway to my left.

What caught my eye is how, with little of architectural interest to work with, a few well tended plants have turned the space into a tiny little peaceful oasis in a busy city. The cobble stones help, but the main feature is the well-tended plants. This alleyway could have been piled high with garbage bags and the like, (others I saw were), but someone has made the effort to make this little corner worth looking at. And everyone who passes, not just those who live and work down here, can now have the pleasure of looking at the results of their work.

The far area of this space is an additional parking space where the “lawn” is actually an area of grasscrete. If, instead of a parking space this could have a bench placed on it and a holy image then this little place of peace might even become one of contemplation. If it were up to me, I would hang a discretely placed small icon of the face of Christ on the back wall, protected from the weather, so that it would be visible from the benches but not so obvious from the main street. That way, those who are drawn into the space would then realise the inspiration behind its beauty, and (who knows) perhaps remain to pray for a few moments.

Cultivation of urban and suburban spaces for beauty can have a profound effect on an area, and contribute hugely to creating a community. I have written about what I believe is a profoundly Christian and liturgical aspect of the wider culture in more detail here, and here.

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