Assessing the Publicness of Public Space:The Star Model of Publicness

George Varna & Steve Tiesdell

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Varna, G. & Tiesdell, S. (1). Assessing the Publicness of Public Space:The Star Model of Publicness. Journal of Urban Design, 15(4), 575–598.

This paper presents a model of, and method for benchmarking, the publicness of public space—termed here as the Star Model. The model is intended to be of value for comparative purposes (i.e. measuring the publicness of one place vis-a`-vis another); as an analytic measure of publicness to be compared with more subjective interpretations of publicness; and as a departure point for deeper investigations of why particular places are more/less public than they could/should be. The paper is in four main parts. The first part discusses and then conceptualizes the nature of ‘public’ space. The second considers publicness as a multi-dimensional concept, identifying and discussing five meta dimensions—ownership; control; civility; physical configuration; and animation. The third explains the model and the integration of these dimensions into a pictorial representation of a place’s publicness. The final part discusses the model’s value and suggests avenues for further development and research.

Main finding
This research develops a useful tool, the Star Model, for objectively benchmarking the publicness of public space using five meta dimensions—ownership, control, civility, physical configuration, and animation. This model is beneficial for future empirical work with three primary uses: (1) Comparative purposes to present pictorially the degree of publicness of one public place to another, and also to highlight areas where the relative publicness is diminished or extended. (2) Analytic and normative/perceptual purposes to compare and contrast with the sense of publicness held by individuals and social groups. (3) Future research purposes to serve as a departure point for deeper investigations of particular places.

Description of method used in the article
The Star Model has five axes each corresponding to the five meta dimensions of publicness. Operationalizing the model involves three tasks—identifying appropriate indicators for each meta dimension, calibrating and then combining (i.e. by weighting or a formula) those indicators into a single score/rating for each meta dimension.

Theoretically interesting

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Urban Design
Physical types