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, 10 September 2009

Public Space - too abstract label?

After some musings it has become clear to me that I am arguing about the use of "public space" as a word. Everything that is not private we label as public. In reality the space inbetween the buildings - the so called public space - is a mixture of interwoven socio-spatial processes in everyday use. Not only do I find the term "public space" too abstract, I also disagree with its ideology. In most cases the public space doesn´t belong to public and its use is regulated by higher authorities. So instead of calling it simply "public" we could define new words, segregate functions and meanings of these spaces. I have so far come up with 3 concepts - public space, open space and social space... If you have better words or examples in mind, or you agree/ disagree with me, post your opinion in the comments!


  1. Hi Monika. Good point. Of course, the higher authorities who regulate our "public" spaces should, in a theoretical democracy, be answerable to us, the public, and therefore we theoretically own the space. Note that this argument does not work on riot police.

    On a more serious note, your definitions use different criteria: public space (ownership), open space (topographical?) and social space (function). Consequently these definitions can overlap: an open or public space can also be a social space. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and is food for thought. How *should* we define spaces?



  2. I think I am looking at these terms (public, social, open) from the social processes side, where public means common shared territory/ functions by crowd; social means common shared territory with a group or community; and open is something about inbetweeness or placelessness where every member of the place determines its belonging. This interest started from my master thesis where I took tourists as space users and tried to investigate their behaviour in the place affected by time, knowledge, local community and design.