Friday, August 31, 2012

Blinded By The Light

Last weekend I commandeered my brood to Freemans Restaurant, located at the end of a dark and gravely lit alleyway in NYC. Against all disciplined intuition, I was practically skipping down the sketchy lane with children in hand like a vacuous mosquito being sucked toward a deadly repellent coil. Curiously, the distant sight of holiday luminaries festooned from the doorway's entrance had me forsake all that my father had ever instilled in exercising prudent judgement calls. Once menu was safely in hand and Shirley Temples ordered, I realized that a couple of spiffy lights are social circuit breakers. Clearly, no matter the conditions of the surroundings, lighting implies the promise of safety.

Here's the quagmire for Malcolm Gladwell. When I was a Landscape Architect for the New York City Housing Authority, lighting plans were intentionally sparse. Illuminating areas only created a hospitable area for drug deals and petty crime to play out. Thugs relied on lighting to see monetary denominations to conduct "business" (It's only my provincial suggestion but, perhaps they should operate in colourful Canadian currency?). Contrary to conventional wisdom, by omitting these fixtures and dressing the site in a cloak of darkness, the public open space actually became safer.

So, the theory behind lighting is obviously not binary. In my opinion, lit areas should not be considered safe destinations in urban arenas and those with holiday twinkle lights - are a flashing yellow (a potential wolf in sheep's clothing)...approach with caution but order the three cheese macaroni when you are safely seated with menu in hand:)