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Muge Akkar Middle East Technical University, Department of City and Regional Planning Abstract
The proliferation of alluring, distinctive and exclusive public spaces in post-industrial cities raises the question of how far these environments are truly ‘inclusive’. Focusing on this question, this paper explores the changing ‘inclusivity’ of a recently redeveloped public space in the city centre of Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain, by investigating before, during and after the redevelopment scheme regarding the four dimensions of access: i) physical access, ii) social access, iii) access to activities and discussions, iv) access to information. It shows that, contrary to the wide recognition of diminishing ‘inclusivity’ of contemporary public spaces in the urban design and planning literature, the recent refurbishment has in fact had both improving and diminishing impacts on the HBS’ ‘inclusive’ qualities. The paper concludes that new-generation public spaces may show different shades of ‘inclusivity’, in which degrees of access can vary widely; and seeks to give clues for urban planning and design practice.
Keywords: Public space; social inclusion/exclusion; access; gentrification; social stratification 1. Introduction Public spaces, one of the inevitable components of cities for centuries, have become subject to broad concern for more than two decades (Carr et al., 1992; Francis, 1987; Madanipour, 2000; Mitchell, 1995; Tibbalds, 1992). Attractive and alluring public spaces have been placed at the centre of many post-industrial cities. Starting from the 1980s, public spaces have also increasingly been used as the key components of city-selling and urban regeneration programmes in Britain (Crilley, 1993; Goodwin, 1993; Hall and Hubbard, 1996; Hubbard, 1995; Sadler, 1993). Despite the resurgence of broad interest in public spaces, urban design and planning literature, frequently hinting at diminishing ‘inclusivity’ of new-generation public spaces, have raised the question of how far they are truly ‘inclusive’. This paper is set up to address this question by examining the Haymarket Bus Station (HBS), a public space in the city centre of Newcastle upon Tyne that was redeveloped in the 1990s. It first introduces the framework for measuring the extent of ‘inclusivity’ of a public space, second summarises the key findings of the case study, third discusses these findings in relation to similar studies on the new-generation public spaces, and finally seeks to give clues for urban planning and design practice. 2. What Is ‘Inclusive Public Space’? Public spaces, by nature, are socially inclusive and pluralist (Tiesdell and Oc, 1998). The ‘inclusive public space’ can be defined as possessing four mutually supportive qualities of ‘access’: i) physical access, ii) social access, iii) access to activities and discussions or intercommunications, iv) access to information. The first quality refers to the access to physical environment, as public space is the place in which everybody is entitled to be physically present. Social access, as also called ‘symbolic access’ by Carr et al. (1992), involves the presence of cues, in the form of people, design and management elements,
has also turned it into a remarkably attractive. 1998: 648). or protests are open to all. This arena enables meanings and uses of a public space change in conformity with citizens’ needs and interests. demonstrations. ‘inclusive’ and ‘pluralist’ qualities of . this paper found that the physical and social accessibility of the space has been relatively improved. its development and use phases are accessible to everybody. the extent of the ‘inclusivity’ of a public space depends on the degree to which the public space. For example. Similarly. Nevertheless. concerts. safer and more organised and controlled space. well-maintained. brought about an order and discipline into the space. or comforting or inviting may affect entry into a public space” (Tiesdell and Oc. The third and fourth qualities allow us to define the public space in conjunction with the ‘time’ dimension. in each of which the public may not be involved. Therefore. the analysis needs to measure the ‘inclusivity’ of the space before. the development process of the public space must ideally be accessible to everybody. ‘ideal’ qualities of ‘inclusive public spaces’ that will rarely – if ever – be attained in practice. Regarding the four qualities of ‘access’. individuals and/or groups perceived either as threatening. Yet. Urban environment is a composition of inclusive and exclusive public and private spaces. the preparation process of its design scheme. work and experience is not only composed by three dimensions. rather than a dichotomy. and facilitates renegotiations of understandings to be ongoing between the public and public actors. Key Findings and Discussion This paper. in effect. seeking to discuss the question of the ‘inclusivity’ of the new-generation public spaces. during and after the HBS’ development regarding the four dimensions of ‘access’. markets. In the case of a public space that already exists and is subject to redevelopment or improvement. The ‘inclusivity’ of a new public space can be assessed by the examination of its development and use processes through these four qualities of ‘access’. 3. and information about. it has experienced a significant change in its ‘inclusivity’. These are. Accepting that the relation between inclusive public space and exclusive private space is a continuum. and provided comfort and convenience for the users. which must be open to all. as the new design and management have eliminated various undesirable factors. Examining before. speeches. which was redeveloped in the 1990s as a part of the image-led urban regeneration strategies. the ‘inclusive public space’ is the place where public authorities are responsible for guaranteeing the existence of a public arena in which citizens express their attitudes. The redevelopment scheme. has studied the HBS. using and promoting the public space as a catalyst to regenerate the north-west edge of the city centre. physically and socially. if they take place in public environments. “Environments. and improved the environmental image and ambience of the public space. whilst it includes various stages. and the activities occurring in. during and after its redevelopment. Space where we live. asserting their claims and using it for their purposes.suggesting who is and is not welcome in the space. Hence. there are some crucial activities and discussions. While the bus station was built through manufactured and imported images. which might be studied under its development and use processes. it is rather a four-dimensional entity. is open to all. It is therefore important to improve the environmental image and ambience of a public space to make it more welcoming and/or less intimidating to a wider range of social groups. which has made it a more inclusive place to a wider range of social groups. such as the decision-making stage of developing a public space. the ‘inclusive’ public space is the place where the activities and discussions in its development and use processes are open to all. Finally the fourth quality of ‘access’ enables us to define the ‘inclusive public space’ as the place where information regarding its development and use processes are available to all members of the society. as in the HBS example. it is possible to define a public space with various degrees of ‘inclusivity’. ie an outcome of time.
In many postindustrial cities. with its diminishing variety of users and highly strict control measures. The restricted public access to the activities. discussions and intercommunications of. architects. The challenge for planners. contrary to the wide recognition of diminishing ‘inclusivity’ of contemporary public spaces in the urban design and planning literature. gentrification. developers and other place- . The general point that can be drawn from the case study and to be extended to its counterparts is that new-generation public spaces may show different shades of ‘inclusivity’. as well as citizenship. by being a relatively inclusive and accessible environment. The investigation of the HBS revealed that. social exclusion and stratification. we have also seen some curious differences between the HBS case and other contemporary public spaces. and the private realm has continuously expanded. First. as a public space. • The tendency of public spaces towards promoting gentrification. Nevertheless. Five areas of similarity between the HBS and the post-industrial cities’ public spaces reflect the ever smaller. while undermining the public needs and benefits. • Their new urban form significantly favouring private interest. it is presently serving a more ‘homogenous’ public than it used to do and it is increasingly characterised by its strong tendency towards enhancing gentrification. the HBS exemplifies a public space still favouring the public interest. Despite various aspects in the new design and management significantly serving the private interest. Nevertheless. social exclusion and stratification have been reinforced and consequently. new public spaces are either rarely used by the public or predominantly by a ‘homogenous’ public. illustrates new-generation public spaces as those favouring private interest at the expense of local communities’ needs and benefits. in general. reflecting the different experience of Newcastle. more internationalised and more homogenous world in which we live. pluralism and tolerance of diversity. in which the four degrees of access can vary widely. and boosting civic pride. helping attract inward investment. • The limited public involvement in the development processes of public spaces. All these observations lead to two major conclusions. it is still accessible to a high number of people. public space is arguably more important than ever for supporting greater sociability and community. The study of the HBS reveals at least five main trends that have also been noted elsewhere as hallmarks of the new-generation public spaces: • The increasing involvement of the private sector in the public space provision.the public space has been undermined by the limited public involvement in the development process where the large-scale business interests and needs. Urban design and planning literature. and information about. designers. and the City’s ambition to use the public space as a visual and functional component of its image-led regeneration strategies predominantly shaped the public space design. bringing economic vitality back to the declining parts of the city centre. in post-industrial cities where the public realm has increasingly shrunk. democracy. the development process has resulted in a public space where the physical and social accessibility was impoverished to an extent. the HBS redevelopment has had both improving and diminishing impacts on its qualities of ‘social inclusivity’. creating new job opportunities. the ideal public realm qualities of social inclusivity have been violated to a degree. social exclusion and stratification. • Increasing restrictions on the social accessibility of public spaces through surveillance and other strict control measures in order to improve their security and ‘good’ or ‘sanitised’ images. Yet.
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