Florian Langstraat & Rianne Van Melik
Langstraat, F. & Van Melik, R. (1). Challenging the ‘End of Public Space’: A Comparative Analysis of Publicness in British and Dutch Urban Spaces. Journal of Urban Design, 18(3), 429–448. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13574809.2013.800451
The increasing involvement of the private sector in the design and management of urban public space has prompted some critical scholars to predict the ‘end of public space’. This study reassesses the implications of private sector involvement through a comparative analysis of British and Dutch urban spaces, based on a threefold critique of the existing literature on the privatization of public space. The analysis is governed by a new model of pseudo-public space that consists of four dimensions of ‘publicness’: ownership, management, accessibility and inclusiveness (OMAI). The findings suggest that, while there are significant differences between the British and the Dutch cases, neither context supports the notion of a possible ‘end of public space’ in any literal sense.
This study challenges the ‘end of public space’ notion and creates a new model of pseudo-public space that consists of four dimensions of ‘publicness’ - ownership, management, accessibility and inclusiveness (OMAI). The findings suggest significant variation in the OMAI variables - a variety of forms of ownership of public space (completely privately owned, fully owned by the local government but privately managed, ‘intermediate’, and ‘gradual privatization'), higher standard of maintenance through private management, very different approaches to security, limits to accessibility, and inclusivity in most cases with some exceptions. The study also found no clear relationship between one aspect of ‘publicness’ and another, The findings also acknowledge the significant difference in governance culture between the British (local governments support new private developments) and the Dutch (public space is the responsibility of local government) cases with regard to the relationship between public and private parties.
Description of method used in the article
The study concentrated on four locations in Britain (more specifically, in London) and three in the Netherlands. Each case was researched by a mix of methods, including observations, analysis of secondary data and in-depth interviews. The information obtained from all of these sources combined was used to create a thick description of each location, which was used to allocate values (ranging from 1 to 4) to the four criteria of the OMAI model.