Discovering London

I’ve been in this fine historical city for just over one week. I’m no stranger to London, it’s my fourth time, always as a visitor mind you, and being half British, have always been a fan of the British view on the world. With this in mind I was determined to avoid all things touristy, and fall into the everyday, try and fall in love with it even.

As a planner, you are constantly on the look out for cultural and social input to flavour your thinking, to create new perspectives and infuse into your work. You hope this input will build on and extend your pre-existing schemas and theoretical constructs, allowing your synapses to build new inter-connected relationships or patterns.

My plan then is to marry the everyday of British life with an Australian observational lens, both inside and outside the office. To do this, I refused to race to Big Ben for the big global photo op, but take pleasure in a much smaller, closer to home experience. I set off on my daily walk to work, a wonderful 20-minute treasure trove of London life, of autumn in full bloom, of red buses, red doors, red telephone boxes. Of course the locals passed by all these things without even a second glance, there was work to get to, places to be, but with fresh eyes, it was wondrous and full of meaning.

Here’s what I discovered:

#1 Trees are so grotesquely knotted they are exquisitely beautiful. Surely a metaphor for life.
#2 Some things in the big city are universal. Desperation is alive and well, and signs of the haves and have nots are everywhere.
#3 Institutions of learning and power are still excluded to some.
#4 The iconic Red Telephone boxes, laying empty and dormant in this post landline world, still capable of relaying a message, one of resistance.

So, the day after I found myself being surrounded (and almost ‘kettled’ — new word for this Aussie) by riot police amongst anti-capitalist ‘Anonymous’ protestors, I find myself contemplating this need for resistance in a society that is well known for its class structures.

I neither condone or support the Anonymous movement, but value the right to protest, and for us all to question a hierarchy that potentially works to exclude participation.

And it is with this Australian observational lens that I consider hierarchy, the benefits and detriments of having one. Without one, the result is anarchy, surely nothing could be accomplished. But reflecting on our Australian office with its relatively flat hierarchy, shaped by a culture of participation, and I feel proud of the creativity it fosters throughout the agency.

Like a grotesquely knotted tree, standing proud in a park full of picturesque woodland, participation is exquisitely beautiful at all levels.

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