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SCHOOL OF PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURE, BHOPAL

Privatization of Public Spaces


Theory of City Form

TEJASHREE KULKARNI [ 2014 MUD 006]


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Contents
1.

Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 2

2.

Aim ............................................................................................................................................................... 3

3.

Objectives ................................................................................................................................................. 3

4.

Scope ........................................................................................................................................................... 3

5.

Limitations ............................................................................................................................................... 3

6.

Methodology ........................................................................................................................................... 3

7.

Literature Review ................................................................................................................................. 4


a.

The distinction between the Public and the Private .........................................................4

b.

Access to public space on the basis of physical and social constraints....................4

c.

Public to Private ownership transformation ........................................................................5

e.

Atriums as a Public Space ............................................................................................................5

8.

Conclusions from Literature Studies........................................................................................... 6

9.

Parameters to study public spaces............................................................................................... 7

10. References ................................................................................................................................................ 7

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THEORY OF CITY FORM: Synopsis for a Seminar on

Privatization of Public Spaces


By Tejashree Kulkarni (2014MUD006)

1. Introduction
A public space is a social space that is generally open and accessible to people. A
public space may be a gathering spot or part of a neighbourhood, downtown, special
district, waterfront or other area within the public realm that helps promote social
interaction and a sense of community. Possible examples may include such spaces as
streets, public squares, plazas, town squares, parks, marketplaces, public commons
and malls, public greens, piers, special areas within convention centres or grounds,
sites within public buildings, lobbies, concourses, or public spaces within private
buildings.
The nature and character of public spaces are closely related to the nature and
character of the cities. As cities have changed, so have their public spaces. Public
spaces play a significant role in the life of cities; there is undeniable need of public
spaces for cities to work. The nature of public spaces in modern cities has radically
changed and use of these spaces reflects the way society is organized. The
transformation of urban public spaces from the integrated core of the small town
organically developed by considering human scale, to their current impersonal
presence in the metropolis. (Madanipour, 2003)
Privatization of public spaces: Many of the public spaces are managed, subsidized
and developed by private agencies, which has led to the privatization of urban
landscapes. It controls uses, movement and behaviour of the spaces. It dramatically
influences redesign of traditional public space. These spaces are generally found in
the urban residential neighbourhoods. A newer effort of privatizing public landscape
also involves atriums- being developed in many corporate and commercial buildings;
such as shopping malls.

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2. Aim
The aim of this seminar is to find reasons behind privatization of public spaces and to
study their contribution in urban social life.

3. Objectives
1. To understand the differentiation between private space and public space
2. Finding reasons of changing character of urban public spaces through
privatization.
3. To explore different theories about privatized public spaces written and
documented by different urbanists and theoreticians, through their literature.
4. To find relevance of the theories with respect to public spaces in Indian
context.

4. Scope
1. The seminar will observe and analyze privatization of urban public spaces,
and the reasons behind it.
2. The seminar will involve public spaces such as privatized/ semi- privatized
parks in neighbourhoods, atriums and premises of shopping mall etc

5. Limitations
1. Case studies related to public spaces will be limited in the Indian context only,
by taking examples from Bhopal city.

6. Methodology
1. Primary data for case studies will be collected through observations,
photographs, and informal interviews of the users involved.
2. Collection of secondary data will be done through literature studies from
articles in books and journals. The literature is reviewed on the basis of
various important topics related to the subject, discussed by authors.

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7. Literature Review

Madanipour, A., 2003. Impersonal


Space of the City. In Madanipour, A.
Public and Private Spaces of the City

Madanipour, A., 2010.


Whose Public Space? In
Madanipour, A. Whose
Public Space?

Madanipour, A., 2003. Why are the Design


and Development of Public Spaces
Significant for Cities? In Cuthbert, A. Design
of Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design

Madanipour, A., 2010. Marginal


Public Spaces in European Cities.
In Madanipour, A. Whose Public
Space?

Francis, M., 2009. Changing Values of


Public Spaces. Landscape Architecture

Literature Map

a. The distinction between the Public and the Private


The distinction between the public and the private basically relies on the spatial
behaviour of individuals. Some places are protected and set apart from the rest by a
complex system of signification: by spatial means such as signs, boundaries, fences,
walls, and gates; or by temporal means such as predetermined working hours. This
complex system of codes, expressed through physical objects and social arrangements,
signifies private places, where strangers cannot enter without permission or
negotiation. Public places, on the other hand, are expected to be accessible to everyone,
where strangers and citizens alike can enter with fewer restrictions. (Madanipour,
2003)
b. Access to public space on the basis of physical and social constraints
The essential quality of a public space is its accessibility. The more open and
unconditional the access, the more public it becomes. This includes physical as well
as social accessibility to that place and to the activities within it. A public space is not
quite a public space when it has no free and open access. Thus, it is not the user, but the
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access and control of access that defines whether space is public or private. That must
be why most definitions of public space emphasize the necessity of access, which
can include access to the place as well as to the activities within it. (Madanipour,
2003)
c. Public to Private ownership transformation
Developing the urban areas, but also maintaining them is a burden for most of the
public authorities, which have long been undermined. So, it becomes advantageous
for them to let private sector manage the development. Thus, from shopping malls to
gated neighbourhoods and protected walkways, new urban spaces are increasingly
developed and managed by private agencies in the interest of particular sections of the
population.
d. Privatization of public space as a silent movement
American cities have always been essentially private, developed and controlled by
commercial interests. Governmental efforts in the 60s and 70s to shape public
environments through urban design and public policy have been largely abandoned
in favor of private initiatives that subsidize, develop and manage public landscapes.
This strategy has led to the privatization of open spaces, including some parks, plazas
and waterfront areas. The movement is silent and subtle; occurring with little public
debate yet marked success. (Francis, 2009) The privatization movement wants more
control over space uses and behaviours. Large amounts and private funds with tax
incentives are given to the developers in order to provide public spaces. Also, their
management controls are transferred to private interests. Finally public agencies are
redesigning open spaces to encourage use by some groups at the expense of others.
e. Atriums as a Public Space
Indoor atriums of new corporate office buildings are also a controversial public
landscape. They are like a standard feature of these buildings- especially in New York
City. The main criticism of these spaces is that they are not truly public, and thus not
accessible or usable.

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The public mall also faces redesign. Many early malls were designed as furnished
outdoor rooms, but ended up being used much differently than intended. Apparently
responding to the public concern about open and accessible spaces, developers have
tried moving public landscapes away from street and creating networks of shops or
lifting plazas above street level. E.g. Bostons Quincy Market, New Yorks South Street
seaport, Baltimores Harbourplace is criticized for being high-priced suburban
shopping centres transplanted to the inner city. These festival marketplaces are
commercially successful but they lack fundamental democratic qualities. (Francis,
2009) The food emporiums and the shopping centres are now thus become new
town centres of the city; especially for teens and elderly.

8. Conclusions from Literature Studies


a. Public space and privatized public space differ from each other not just on the
basis of ownership but also on its users, functions and activities.
b. Public space should be free, open and accessible to all user groups of all ages,
social classes, gender and professions etc.
c. When the access to the space and its activities is closed for certain user groups
by physical, economic or social barriers, then that space is not truly public in
its sense.
d. Public authorities seem to be disinterested in designing and developing public
spaces because of its maintenance issues and financial burden. Hence, these
responsibilities are passed on to the private sector developers; who seek
some incentives and profit on their investment.
e. Spaces like shopping mall atriums are actually free and open to all, but its
physical setting and glossy, vibrant environment automatically withdraws
economically weaker section of the society.
f. Privatization of public spaces like gardens, parks etc thus deprive common
people and residents; who have equaled right on such spaces to relax, rest and
enjoy themselves in the busy urban life.

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9. Parameters to study public spaces


a. Use and user group diversity (Francis, 2009)
b. Comfort with respect to basic human needs such as weather protection,
seating, security etc (Francis, 2009)
c. Accessibility or publicness in terms of users and activities (Francis, 2009)
d. Uses and activities which add meaning to spaces
e. Its physical characteristics such as sense of enclosure, scale and proportion
etc.
f. Future of such spaces
g. Reasons for privatization

10.
i.

References
Francis, M., 2009. Changing Values of Public Spaces. Landscape Architecture,
Jan-Feb.

ii.

Madanipour, A., 2003. Impersonal Space of the City. In Madanipour, A. Public


and Private Spaces of the City. Routledge.

iii.

Madanipour, A., 2003. Why are the Design and Development of Public Spaces
Significant for Cities? In Cuthbert, A. Design of Cities: Critical Readings in Urban
Design. Wiley.

iv.

Madanipour, A., 2010. Marginal Public Spaces in European Cities. In


Madanipour, A. Whose Public Space? New York: Routledge.

v.

Madanipour, A., 2010. Whose Public Space? In Madanipour, A. Whose Public


Space? New York: Routledge.

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