Contemporary Public Space: Critique and Classification, Part One: Critique

Matthew Carmona

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Carmona, M. (1). Contemporary Public Space: Critique and Classification, Part One: Critique. Journal of Urban Design, 15(1), 123–148.

This two-part paper draws upon different scholarly traditions to highlight the key tensions at the heart of the contemporary public space debate. Critiques of public space can broadly be placed into two camps, those who argue that public space is over- managed, and those who argue that it is under-managed. This over-simplifies a complex discourse on public space that this paper aims to unpack, but nevertheless provides a useful lens through which to view the critiques. In fact there are a series of discrete but related critiques of the contemporary public space situation, and it is these that the first part of this paper identifies and organizes. In so doing it also reveals a range of public space types that are used in the second part of the paper to suggest a new typology of public space.

Main finding
This research classifies contemporary public spaces as under-managed spaces (neglected space, invaded space, exclusionary space, segregated space, and domestic, third and virtual space) and over-managed space (privatized space, consumption space, invented space, and scary space) while also noting that the under-management and over-management critiques may be each directly and indirectly contributing to the other. The research also finds that corporate interests are determined to take responsibility for their own public spaces, or for neighbouring spaces that directly impact on their businesses.

Description of method used in the article
Identifying and organization of the multifarious critiques of contemporary public space and impact of contemporary trends on public space followed by classification to suggest a new typology of public space, one based on how public space is managed.

Theoretically interesting

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Physical types