The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Public Space in London?

For the recent Blueprint (August 2009) editors of the magazine teamed up with the Manifesto Club to test the limits of freedom in London. They carried out some experiments in public spaces such as Trafalgar Square, Paternoster Square and "Scoop" - area around Rodgers City Hall. Here are some quotes they were told in "public squares" after having picnic in deck chairs and playing football.

Area: Scoop
Guard: Sorry to interrupt your lovely picnic, but I have been asked by the management to move you along. You know it´s health and safety.
P: Health and Safety?
Guard: Yes, it´s a public walkway, and it gets busy down here with cyclists and skateboards who come past.
P: I thought you weren´t allowed to cycle here...
Guard: No, you´re not but kids come racing through on their bikes - we try to stop them but...

Guard: You can´t play football here guys. It´s all private property. This whole grey area is private property. It´s a stupid rule, if we don´t do it, though, then someone in the offices will call Boris Johnson and he´ll tell us to stop it.

Area: Trafalgar Square
Guard: I´m going to have to move you.
A: What are the rules?
Guard: I´m sorry but you will have to move. You know that St.James´s Park is just around the corner. GLA (Greater London Authority) owns this area.

Guard: Why are you having a picnic in a private space? What you like it here on the hard concrete? Is it a performance?

Area: Paternoster Square
Man passing by: You have found a great spot here. It´s getting like St Mark´s Square!

Guard: I am sorry I am going to have to stop you. There´s no throwing or kicking of anything here. If you hurt someone they´ll get sued. This is private property, not public, so you can´t do anything that might endanger public. There are 50CCTV cameras covering this area.

source: Blueprint article: How much public is public space?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Public space? Social space? Open space...

The social sciences as well as architecture tend to speak of public and private in binary terms: it is either or. But in fact it is a question of constant shifts from public to private. Spaces therefore need to be designed as ´open spaces´ - to accommodate the shifts between public and private interactions. And designers should not describe them as one or the other, not restrict, but rather invite social explorations. The significance of the public space lies not in the degree of its expanse, its quantitative predominance or its symbolic role, but in connecting private, enclosed spaces, turning these spaces into collective memory.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Public and private continuum

In the beginning of the master course we were asked to create a newspaper article on any findings about Eindhoven - we called it The Eindhoven Zoo - or in my intepretation - to see and to be seen.

"Eindhoven at first gets your attention as being open and friendly city. Walking along the streets, I find it surprising how many people leave their curtains open in the dark. Almost as showing their way of living - open-minded, tolerant, welcoming... Almost as saying: you are always welcome to come inside... Their homes seem to be designed fashionably. But you hardly ever see someone really living there. I wonder whether they may have just gone to the other room, and left the light on... Empty spaces behind the glass windows look like a stages designed for show(off). I feel strange looking into someone´s home without letting them know. As if I was an intruder to forbidden areas - their private life..."

In our homes we create spaces that are meant for us and those for outsiders; but"public" is the place to see and to be seen. A place that is accessible to everybody, where nobody can be barred from, but nobody has special rights either. At least in theory...