Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The sociology of urban public spaces

by Stéphane Tonnelat

This paper identifies, through a brief review of a variety of urban spaces in France and in the USA, the street, the shopping mall, the train station, the café, the square and the garden, two main questions facing designers and scholars of public space today: How to conceive spaces that are at once accessible to everyone and which also foster a sense of shared concern, the emergence of a local public sphere?
In the last 20 years, public spaces have acquired a renewed visibility in the French urban planning world (Billiard 1988; Jolé 2002). Briefly put, the general opinion is that public spaces are an essential ingredient to the sustainability of cities for political, social, economic, public health and biodiversity reasons (Banerjee, 2001). However, the dominating trend observed by many is one of shrinkage rather than expansion of the public realm. Diverse processes of privatization have given rise in the last half century to an array of city forms less and less amenable to the daily copresence of a diversity of urbanites. Suburbanization and highways, "theme park development", technologies of surveillance, shopping malls, gated communities and condominiums, all testify to an ongoing enclosure of the urban world (Low and Smith 2006). Accordingly, global indicators of segregation (class, race and ethnicity, gender) seem to show a worldwide growing
separateness of the different categories of the population (United Nations Human Settlements Programme. 2004). Today, for a number of planners, public space thus appears as an important means to alleviate these ills while at the same time addressing emerging issues such as the imperative of sustainable development and social justice. This paper proposes to review the diverse movements that contribute to the renewed interest in public space.

more about urban sociology:

Urban Planning and Cultural Inclusion

The Role of Space Syntax in Identifying the Relationship Between Space and Crime

Creative Copenhagen: Globalization, Urban Governance and Social Change

No comments:

Post a Comment