Sometimes Houston can feel like featureless flat sprawl of concrete and metal. It doesn’t help that most of us experience this flat featureless sprawl from the further insulating bubble of our car. It is easy to paint Houston as a sterile and isolating place but you would be ignoring that Houston has the diversity and cultural wealth deserving of the fourth largest city in the United States. To cash in on these attributes, we need to remove the car window barrier and create some shared experiences. While the individualistic structure of an auto-centric city can make community events more difficult to develop, Houstonians are not without ingenuity.
Raj Mankad, writer for the Rice Design Alliance associated publication OffCite, created a petition to close a Houston street for pedestrians once a week. Mankad explained to FPH that the idea to create a Houston pop up street festival stems from his colleague’s article on other pop up street gatherings around the world. The idea is simple, but the possibilities are endless. Allow pedestrians to take over a street, and let the music, dancing, street vendors, poetry readings, artists, bicyclists, or whoever wants to use the public space, create a unique community experience.
There are reasons why the city would be against giving these permits, but the benefits outweigh the difficulties. One could argue that a public gathering would be more easily organized in a place already designated for public use, like a park. Yet making the streets into a temporary public space has the potential to be much more successful because it is more intrusive , unique and it allows for the integration of already beloved shops, bars and restaurants into a larger public atmosphere. All over Houston there are sections of road dotted with little shops and restaurants that would be pleasant to walk between, but the noise, inconvenience and danger of cars make walking unpleasant and impractical. This is an opportunity for pedestrians to reclaim the streets.
A description of this street space event is currently undefined in the petition. The purpose of the petition is to plant the idea in the public mind and let it grow from there. If the petition is successful, it could help persuade city council to turning our streets into Sunday promenades. Click here to sign the petition, and share the petition with your friends through email or social media.