Public Space and the Contracting-out of Publicness: A Framework for Analysis

Claudio De Magalhães

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De Magalhães, C. (1). Public Space and the Contracting-out of Publicness: A Framework for Analysis. Journal of Urban Design, 15(4), 559–574.

During the last two decades the literature on public space has registered the emergence of alternative forms of pubic space provision that depart from the traditional model of direct state ownership and management. The picture that emerges is a complex one, not so much one of privatization, but instead one of complex redistribution of roles, rights and responsibilities in public space governance to a range of social actors beyond the state. This paper discusses an approach to understanding the forms of publicness implicit in alternative forms of public space governance. Issues of rights, access, accountability and control could be examined in public space governance arrangements based on contracts, legal agreements and performance management mechanisms involving private and voluntary entities instead of the traditional public sector processes of policy delivery and accountability. The paper proposes a framework for investigating how ‘publicness’ is constructed and maintained through these arrangements.

Main finding
The study finds that most public spaces are still provided and managed in the ‘traditional’ way but the transfer of responsibilities for public space governance through various types of contractual agreements will gradually lead to a redefinition of the very notion of public space. This signifies a move away from an assumed universal entitlement to public space towards a varied typology of public space that will reflect the location, context and different interests accommodated in governance arrangements of those spaces.

Description of method used in the article

Policy implications

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Urban Planning
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