Sunday, December 26, 2010

Guatemala's Rich Public Places -- Paseo de La Sexta

A few days ago I arrived in Guatemala and have learned of some exceptional public places. The first example is Guatemala City's Paseo de la Sexta, a comfortable and vibrant street (see video, It seems this was achieved with relatively simple changes.

Avenida Sexta (Sixth Avenue) in the city's center, Zona 1, is its historic shopping street. Like cities in the United States, it seems to have had some of its energy drained through duplicative retail development at the periphery. The pedestrian in Zona 1 also suffers from narrow sidewalks and
exposure to high-speed traffic.

Avenida Sexta, between 8th and 18th streets, now has a high-quality experience for the pedestrian. Finished this year (see bottom photo of the utility cover, dated 2010), the street has wider sidewalks than the rest in the neighborhood, seating, and public art. Perhaps to mark the Christmas season, white lights were strung overhead for the entire ten-block length (see middle photo). At regular intervals are banners explaining particular improvements around the city or points of interest (see top photo, introducing new Christmas markets). While there is a marked bus lane, Avenida Sexta was open only to pedestrians the times I was there.

The project's name, "Paseo", indicates that the changes to Avenida Sexta are an attempt make this street more sociable. The improvements are about walking, being seen, and interacting with fellow residents and visitors. This was one of the most vibrant places I saw in the capital. It was the most happy.

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