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Public Interiors:

Urbanism or Not?
M.G.A.D.Harteveld MSc
II International Ph.D.Seminar on Urbanism Urbanism & Urbanization 2005

Public Interiors: Urbanism or Not?


M.G.A.D.Harteveld MSc
Delft University of Technology

Advisor: Henco Bekkering

Abstract:
The aim of my research is to clarify the urban design role next to the architectural design role
concerning the design task of interior public space. From out of the viewpoint of public space,
the design of public interiors is a dismissed task for urbanist. By systematic analyzing different
types of interior public spaces, such as the arcade and the mall, through time, the evolution of
their different contemporary urban design tasks becomes clear. In general: If the position in the
city and the urban context are highly relevant, I conclude, the urban design task is just as
crucial.

More and more the debate around public space seems to focus on interior public space.
Reasoning from different angles, designers and critics are not limiting themselves to outdoor
space. This is not extraordinary because in present-day western society we see a lot of
exemplary interiors being part of urban life and urban structure. In everyday usage, being in the
city most often means that interior public space cannot be avoided. A part of these interiors is
even a constituent particle in the contemporary city. The aim of my research is to clarify the
urban design role next to the architectural design role concerning the design task of interior
public space. From out of the viewpoint of public space, the design of public interiors is a
dismissed task for urbanist. It is urban design task because most of these interiors arise as result
of urban control, urban pressure and urban use: In a need for high quality urban space the urban
discomfort and soreness is eliminated, in a need for extra urban space new public areas and
street levels appear and as a result of the urban use private buildings become more public and
become part of the network of public space.

Millions and millions of people for example use railway stations to change trains or to enter the
city. For me a transfer at Rotterdam Central Station is as common as a walk through the street
were I live. In New York going from 7th Avenue to Grand Central on 5th Avenue, a pedestrian
tunnel and the 42nd Street Shuttle provide me with an easy hub between the two subway stations.
In Toronto an underground and elevated walkway-system links most offices and shopping
centres downtown, and in Paris arcades form comfortable connections. Not only has traffic
defined how we use the urban interiors: so has the stay. Think of the mall for example. Is it not
quite common in American suburbs to meet at the mall? Here the enclosed mall seems to
function as the new city centre. At the same time in the inner city itself department stores and
fashionable shops develop themselves as urban meeting places, introducing restaurants, cafes
and lounges.

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These long lists of examples underline the idea that private buildings can be public. They are
public by their social meaning and value, which reaches much further than the building itself
and in which their urban nature is turned into an interior (Solà Morales 1992).

In social science, interior public spaces are public, because they are part of the so-called public
realm. The public realm is defined as the sphere of action and speech and contrasts to the private
realm of the household, as the sphere of necessity, or shortly as a sphere of existence, survival
and reproduction of life (Arendt 1958: 54-58). This definition is closely related to terms as
bürgerliche öffenlichkeit or just öffenlichkeit, translated as public sphere (Habermas, 1962
translated 1989). By using a term as ‘realm’, a reference is made to a region under the dominion
of a king. In this line of thinking the public realm could be defined as an area controlled by the
public or the people.

For architectural and urban science this notion emphasises a dilemma. In general, urbanism and
architecture meet on the edge between the publicly and privately owned domains. Since the late
Nineteenth Century, people began to differentiate between urbanism and architecture. Urbanism
gained independence with the invention of terms like urbanización (Cerda 1863) and städtebau
(Baumeister 1876) and with the institutionalization of the discipline as in the form of public
works departments. Urbanism plans and organizes the city, while architecture plans and forms
the building and its premises (Heeling 1991). But what if interiors become public? Urbanism
and architecture may have become independent disciplines, but the distinction between them
has grown blurred.
In the same time period the transformation of public space from a publicly to a privately owned
domain is a remarkable phenomenon. The transition of public space is revealed in outdoor
spaces covered with a comfortable roof and in the rise of buildings which have public meaning.
What does this mean for architecture and urbanism? Is the building replacing the city? Is the
city becoming a building? Or has nothing changed at all? Should interior public space be
redefined as a part of the city in a building? Or is it just a building in a city? Does this polemic
between the city and the building, the public and the private, mean a new disciplinary edge? Or
does it signal open borders? Are we dealing with a new coexistence or a new collaboration?
Using as examples the typological evolutions of the arcade and the mall, I would like to
illustrate how these interior public spaces came to acquire their dualistic nature. By learning
from their history, the contemporary design tasks of public interiors can be understood and
(re)defined.

The Arcade: How a building type becomes part of the network of public space

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Although the arcade is an interior public space characteristic of Nineteenth-Century bourgeois


society (Benjamin 1972 translated 1982, Geist 1979 and Doisneau 1981) the origin of this type
goes back to initiatives of Paris nobility in the late Eighteenth Century. This was the time of the
first travel reports of the Napoleonic journeys to Arabia. One of them was the journey of
Volney. This eminent Orientalist described with great astonishment the lively and successful
trade in the bazar ou marché couvert (Volney 1783 – 1785: 209 and 247). Most likely inspired
by these stories, Louis Philippe, duke of Orleans, enjoined the architect Victor Louise to design
such a bazaar in the palace gardens. The trade profits would pay off his debts, accrued by his
tendency to gamble and his unlucky speculations (Geist 1970: 452). The first design drawing
clearly shows a European variant of the bazaar. This is a notion of great interest, because similar
building types appeared in London some years later. Still the real breakthrough in typology,
both figurative and literal, came after the Salle d’Opera of the Palais Royal burnt down. Before
the first design could be built, the design assignment was expanded to include a new theatre;
and, perhaps more significantly, the bazaar would be lengthened from street to street. With this
new architectural design the building became an important short-cut through the large building
block formed by the palace. It was a much-needed and comfortable connection in the Paris
before Haussmann. This Galerie de Bois (Louis 1786 – 1788?) became a huge success.

Just after the French Revolution the bourgeoisie embraced the concept of this design. In a need
for new public space for tout de Paris (Geist 1970: 449) more arcades were built on the grounds
of the expelled noblesse. All over the inner city of Paris systems of arcades appear, such as the
system of Passage des Panoramas, Passage Jouffroy and Passage Vendeau (Thayer 1800, Letuc,
Travers and Roussel 1845 and 1846). All three in alignment of each other, they formed together
a clean, paved, luxurious and modern public space to shop and to stroll in an unhygienic city.
The fundamental typological change from ‘a marketplace or an assemblage of shops where
goods are exposed for sale’ to ‘an arched or covered passageway’ (Porter 1913: 126 and 77) and
the representation of this new idea defines the birth of the arcade type.

In contemporary perspective the arcade is a roofed shopping street. The arcade was once a
passage. Nowadays it is has the connotation of a street. For this definition the designs of the
Galeries Saint Hubets in Brussels (Cluysenaar 1846 – 1847) and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
in Milan (Mengoni 1865 – 1867) are most important. The Brussels arcade differs in many ways
from the Parisian arcade. The arcade is strategically designed to open up the heart of the city.
The arcade is larger, wider and much higher. Also the gate-like entrance is much bigger. I
discovered that these dimensions are equal to those of the Uffizi in Florence (Vasari 1560 –

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1574). Though precise research may clarify even more, it is already obvious that this architect
introduced the notion of a street in the arcade type. The monumental design and the strategic
position in the city define an important step in the evolution of the arcade. The accessibility and
the urban usage are greater than in the earlier Parisian cases, thanks to the arcade’s composition
and position. With this design the arcade became more public. This typological change validates
the slogan on the entrance façade of Saint Huberts. It says Omnibus Omnia, which can be
translated as ‘Everything for Everyone’. Although no one was excluded from the Parisian
arcade, in the bourgeois society public representation was still dependent on the presence of
people before whom it was displayed (Habermas 1962 translated 1989: 10). As a result, the
arcade in Paris was first and foremost a bourgeois space.

In the years of the Belgian project, society was changing rapidly. In the new Belgium state the
public interest was reflected in the design of the arcade. For its importance as a national symbol,
King Leopold I signed a royal decree stating that the construction was in the public interest and
that the necessary expropriations would be authorised. Appended to this decree was a set of
building regulations which varied from building materials to sewage and fire regulations
(Leopold 1839). Such regulations underscore the significance of the public. In the project in
Milan they extend even further. The design competition itself was organised by the local
government. The architect Mengoni consulted Cluysenaar (Geist 1970: 385). Both arcades are
designed with street façades in the interior, emphasising the typological transformation of the
arcade into a street. The Galleria differs in the scale of restructuring the inner city. With its huge
monumental design it connects two important squares: the Piazza della Scala with the Piazza del
Duomo. It has four interior streets connected by a covered square; at the same time it forms
almost by itself the entire building block.

In the following decades all over the world the smaller passages decline and other arcades are
being privatized or demolished. They die because they are not contributing to the urban
structure, they are not publicly financed or do not have huge dimensions, like the examples of
Brussels and Milan. In these cities the arcade became real freely accessible public space.

During the renaissance and resurrection of this type in the 1970s, the arcade evolved again
(Lauter 1984, Kief-Niederwöhrmeier and Niederwöhrmeier 1986). In the arcade designs of
Gänsemarkt Passage, Hanseviertel and Galleria (Graf and Schweger 1979, Gerkan and Mang
1980, Haussmann and Haussmann 1983) in Hamburg, the comfort is optimised. In a need for
controlling the climate and a better management, the entrance door is introduced. This seems in
contradiction to the goals which the Kommission zur Belebung der Innerstadt had (Sack 1984:
7, 8). The investments in the arcades may well have enlivened the city, but the entrance doors

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created new barriers in public life. They isolate activities within the building from the life of the
street (Sennet 1977: 12, 13). Nonetheless, the arcades do increase connections in the city,
thereby enhancing the urban structure. Thus although more private in a social sense, they are
part of the network of public space, even though for only part of the day.

The mall: How a public space type becomes part of the building complex

In the Hamburg arcades we see the influences of the mall; the urban sorrow is eliminated, the
space is conditioned and in general the quality is improved. Though influenced by the arcade,
the mall has its own origin. Just as in the case of the arcade, the contemporary mall has its roots
in the social context of the nobility. These roots are even older than those of the arcade. In the
Seventeenth Century the London Pall Mall (Le Nôtre ca. 1666) was designed as a track for
ground billiards. The French landscape architect Le Nôtre advised the British King Charles II to
reserve a playing area for this popular continental game. In the game a ball is pushed with a
paille though a metal ring or a mail: maille (Prichard 1981). The track was a public access area
on the edge of the city. As a typological name for a public space, the bastardised word ‘mall’
was not completely strange to the language. Mall sounds familiar to some other words with a
public connotation; such as the Latin mallum, meaning public assembly, or the Gothic mapl, a
market place (Porter 1913: 887). While fashion changed and the game went indoors, the outdoor
space of Pall Mall remained a beloved strolling place. The introduction of the first public gas
lightning here in 1807 attests to its enduring popularity. These urban transformations made the
track a mall in the sense of a ‘promenade for pedestrians’ or a ‘public walk, a level shaded
walk’ (Porter 1913: 887).

Was it due to the success of Pall Mall in the succeeding years that the Grand Avenue in
Washington was redesigned and renamed The Mall? (L'Enfant 1791, Downing 1851)
Unfortunately I lack a definitive answer. At the time a market grew around The Mall (Reps
1991). It could well have given rise to our contemporary conception of a mall: a pedestrian
shopping area, an urban shopping precinct along a street closed to traffic. But how did the mall
evolve from a public outdoor space to a more private enclosed space? And how did what was
originally an urban design task become a purely architectural task?

A European city again plays an important role in helping us to answer the question. In
Rotterdam the modern era begins with the design of Lijnbaan (Van den Broek en Bakema 1949
– 1953). In a time when business streets were becoming pedestrianised it was designed as the
functionalist main street (Kostof 1992: 239, 240). As an open-air pedestrian shopping street the
Lijnbaan was an example for many architects and urban planning departments in Europe and the
United States. In cities such as Stockholm with the design of the Trog and in Seattle with the

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design of Northgate (Markelius 1952 – 1962, Graham 1950) the influences of the Lijnbaan are
most obvious. In the design of Southdale Center in Edina (Gruen 1954 – 1956) link with the
Lijnbaan appears to be less clear. Here it is not primarily the form of the designs which are
comparable; what is worthy of comparison are the concepts and the design of the pedestrian
spaces, together with the configuration of shops and anchor stores. My studies in the Dutch
National Architectural Archives NAi have shown that the architect Gruen consulted his Dutch
colleagues Van den Broek en Bakema in the 1950s. This fact makes the Rotterdam case as
important as the London and Edina cases.

In an attempt to create high-quality urban space, designers tried increasingly to banish urban
discomfort from the mall. The Lijnbaan is closed to car traffic. It gives space to the promenade,
and the public space is partly covered by shelters. At Southdale the architect fully controlled and
conditioned the climate by enclosing the mall completely for the first time. He set an example
by making urban space comfortable in a cold climate. The enclosed mall at Edina can be
compared in a social sense with the Hamburg arcades: the space became less public. In an urban
sense the difference is critical. This suburban mall lacks any connection with the traditional
network of public space, except with the highway. It is an autonomous and introverted space.
This variant of the type is a vulnerable one, as we see today. Designed not only for a specific
use but also for a specific public, the space depends solely on that public. What happens when
that public changes it habits, moves away, or even dies?

In the second half of the Twentieth Century, the content of the mall expanded. It was not merely
shops and restaurants. The West Edmonton Mall (Sunderland 1981 – 1985) for example has 10
anchor stores, 800 shops and more than 110 restaurants, 26 movie theatres, a casino, a bungee
jump and a rock climbing wall, a replica of the Santa Maria and amazingly enough seven indoor
amusement parks--all under one roof. In this mall, controlling the urban climate acquired a new
meaning. In the design of Bourbon Street and Europe Boulevard in the complex, the experience
seems to be controlled as well. With the help of such disciplines as econometrics, landscaping
and psychology, the mall design was optimised. It must have been the success of these kinds of
formulas that led to the mall boom in the 1980s, with the WEM as the unrivalled climax. Due to
this success the evaluated type was introduced again on the European continent. In designs such
as the Metro Centre in Newcastle – Gateshead (Hall 1984 – 1987 / V&A Design 2004) we see
the same introverted world as in the American counterparts. A still-growing concrete
construction made this mall the largest in Europe. The number of shops increases and an indoor
amusement park, several movie theatres and leisure facilities are introduced. By designing a
complete introverted mall, without any connection to its urban context, the mall becomes a city
within a city. I wonder: do we still need the outdoor world?

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Towards the future of public interiors

If I compare the evolution of the Nineteenth-Century European arcade with the development of
the Twentieth-Century American mall, I reach a remarkable conclusion. While the arcade type
became transformed into a public interior as an integral part of the network of public space, the
mall type grew into an introverted public space denying the outdoor world. In the first case the
building became more open by its urban usage, its urban design and its urban planning. In the
second case the space became more enclosed by its architectural approach, its focus on the
interior programme, climate and experience.

Designs such as Centro in Oberhausen and the Moll d’Espanya in Barcelona (RTKL Associates
Inc 1994 – 1996, Viaplana and Piñón 1995) are less introverted than conventional malls. In
these designs a new step in the transformation of the mall type has been made. Partial outdoor
activities are introduced and a strong connection of the public interior to the rest of the public
space is made. Different from the arcade both locations remain somewhat isolated in the urban
tissue. In some American cases the extreem isolated suburban mall seems to become the new
downtown (Crawford 1992: 24). Fifteen years ago I visited The Gardens (The Forbes Co 1988)
in Palm Beach just after its opening. I remember how amazed I was by its size and atmosphere.
Today it is a worthy representative of the mall boom. Since its opening many other malls have
cropped up near Palm Beach. At base they differ very little from each other. But the public
wants variation and differences: After the revitalisation of the historic downtown of Palm
Beach, renamed CityPlace (Elkus 1994 – 2000), the public turned its back on the mall and chose
unexpectedly the outdoor space. Inspired by the European city, the redesign of the original
downtown did restore the traditional public space. Despite the fact that a small-scale mall is
included in the design, the new downtown is in general open to various kinds of environmental,
ecological and social influences. Having these variations the combination of interior public
space and outdoor space designed as a whole has most likely got a better future than an
autonomous public interior. This fall the developers of the competitive mall will open
Downtown at the Gardens (Oliver, Glidden, Spina & Partners 2005). “We are creating an
atmosphere much like CityPlace”, explained the developers in the newspapers. Will there be
two downtowns? In general in the United States the influences of New Urbanism seem to ring in
a new age for the mall. Several projects like the ones in Palm Beach are appearing. While
redesigning some malls, more and more malls are abandoned now, leaving empty boxes
(Herman 2001). Like the arcade if the mall does not urbanize, in the wide sense of the word, it
seems to die. Rendering urban, interior public spaces will be urbanism.

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In general: Urban usage is changing and will continue to change. At a certain point in the
evolution of public interiors, buildings can become part of the city or else parts of the city can
become buildings. The result is confusion. Disciplinary borders do change, but the key force
behind the current confusion is twofold: urbanism defines new types of public space while
architecture defines them as new building types. It is both. From the perspective of interior
public space, the city need not be content with empty boxes such as those in North America. If
the position in the city and the urban context are highly relevant, the urban design task is just as
crucial. Although designing interiors is traditionally the task of architects, in the case of interior
public space it is therefore high time to share that task with urbanists.

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Galerie de Bois in Paris, France Galeries Saint Huberts in Brussels, Belgium


(drawing by Victor Louise) (photo by Maurice Harteveld)

Bourbon Street in the West Edmonton Mall in Downtown at the Gardens in Palm Beach,
Edmonton, Aberta (phot by Matthias Huijgen) Florida (sketch by Craig Menin)

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Bibliography

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Benjamin, W. (1972 (1940) transl. 1982) The Arcades Project, The Belknap Press of Harvard
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Cerda, I. (1869, transl. 1999) The Five Bases Of The General Theory Of Urbanization, Electa,
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Cerda, I., (1869) Teoria General de Urbanizacion, Barcelona, Spain.

Crawford, M. (1992) The World in a Shopping Mall. In: Sorkin, M. (1992) Variations on a
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Geist, J.F.; Passagen. Ein Bauwtyp des 19. Jahrhundert. Munich, Germany.

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Prichard, D. M. C. (1981) The History of Croquet, [Col.], Cassell, London, England.

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Design Cases

Cluysenaar, P. (1846 – 1847) Galeries Saint Hubets, Brussels, Belgium,.

Downing, A.J. (1851) The Mall, Washington, USA.

Elkus, H. (1994 – 2000) CityPlace, Palm Beach, USA.

Gerkan and Mang (1980) Hanseviertel, Hamburg, Germany.

Graf and Schweger (1979) Gänsemarkt Passage, Hamburg, Germany.

Graham, J. (1950) Northgate, Seattle, USA.

Gruen, V. (1954 – 1956) Southdale Center, Edina, USA.

Hall and Newcastle United developers (1984 – 1987) / V&A Design (2004) Metro Centre, New
Castle – Gateshead, England.

Haussmann, T. and R. Haussmann (1983) Galleria, Hamburg, Germany.

L'Enfant, P. (1791) Grand Avenue, Washington, USA.

Le Nôtre, A. (ca. 1666) Pall Mall, London, England.

Letduc, Travers and Roussel (1845 – 1846) Passage Jouffroy, Paris, France.

Letduc, Travers and Roussel (1846) Passage Vendeau, Paris, France.

Louis, V. (1786 – 1788?) Galeries de Bois, Paris, France

Markelius, S. and Town Planning Office of Stockholm (1952 – 1962) Trog, Stockholm, Sweden

Mengoni, G. (1865 – 1867) Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan, Italy.

Oliver, Glidden, Spina & Partners, and JPRA Architects (1999 – 2005) Downtown at the
Gardens, Palm Beach, USA.

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RTKL Associates Inc (1994 – 1996) Centro, Oberhausen, Germany.


Sunderland, M. (1981 – 1985) The West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Canada.

Thayer (1800) Passage des Panoramas, Paris, France.

The Forbes Co (1988) The Gardens, Palm Beach, USA.

Van den Broek, J. en J. Bakema, 1949 – 1953) Lijnbaan, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Vasari, G. (1560 – 1574) Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

Viaplana, A and H. Piñón (1995) Moll d’Espanya, Barcelona, Spain.

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