The phenomenon called Google Street View is part of our internet society for a few years now. We use it for travelling, work, and even art projects. Over the years it has become more and more sophisticated and complete. A lot of the public space in The Netherlands is now captured on camera and is accessible for everybody from behind his desk. I’m not going to start the discussion whether this is a good or bad thing, but one thing I can say for sure: For our field of work it’s often very useful. For example: if you have forgotten how a certain location or street is laid out or how certain details connect to each other, it’s much easier to check Google Street View first rather than driving over there and take a look at it.
Of course visiting the location in person beats Google street view by a long shot. There is no doubt that you record more details by being there than looking at a screen; let alone interpreting the atmosphere of a place which you can not perceive from a picture. Nevertheless it’s a great addition as a information source.
Today, while looking at Street View for a publication about one of our older projects, I stumbled across something interesting.
In 1992 we designed a master plan for the restructuring of a psychiatric centre called Delta. Due to the change in the perception of health care Delta wanted to open up the site to the public. Their aim was to positively influence the (re)integration of clients into society. In order to achieve this all fences have been removed and paths created to connect the site with it’s surroundings. Furthermore several semi-public buildings have been build, among which a kindergarten and a greenhouse where clients sell their home grown flowers and vegetables.
Nevertheless the site is still only a semi-public space. For instance, there are no official street names and paths are usually not displayed on road maps. However Google Maps together with Google Street View did not notice that. The camera cars of Street View which normally only photograph the public roads covered almost every path on the Delta site and placed it on Google maps.
If not only a resident of the surrounding area enters the site but also a complete stranger with a camera car, I think we can conclude: the concept of integration on which the plan is based is a success.