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.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Public - Private Paradox in Housing

The paradox of the new open space in housing ensembles is its ambiguity: it attempts to be both public and private. For what and for whom are these little squares intended? Who actually uses them and in what ways? Newcomers who stroll around these layouts feel slightly confused: Is this a public park? A private garden for the residents of the villas? Or is it other way around, and are passers-by invited to look at the residents on their terraces? Sometimes such paradoxical experiences are what makes these spaces so fascinating. The old meanings of private life and public domain shift and lose their unequivocalness. The new open space brings urban life into traditional housing block through visual links with the city and by permitting entry to other users.

At times private and public seem to seamlessly flow into one another. Crucial elements in the organization and experience of the public and private domains are the boundaries and transitions: entrances to the dwellings, back sides of the buildings, gardens and the place for cars. The logic of the perimeter block however gets reversed: the inner side becomes its formal side and front side to the entrances.

An important
consequence in the reversal is that the "backs of the houses" are on the outer side and therefore eventually in a public area. The reversal of the block principle also means that the car cannot be parked right by the door and this in some opinions creates a feeling of belonging to the community. However the ambiguous status of the new open space is not a collective one: most of these kind of spaces created in the Netherlands for example are public property. These new ensembles can be seen as experiments. They are hybrids, the sense of public-private spaces is being sought anew.

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