Columnist Aaron Betsky re-examines public spaces, and the roles of architects and citizens in shaping them.
Last week, I found myself back in Utrecht, Netherlands, the town where I grew up. When I was in high school there, the largest indoor mall in the area opened up right downtown. It sucked the life out of the city, creating a then-splendid, though saccharine, set of quasi-public spaces that soon turned into decrepit havens for drug dealing and low-end retail outlets. The mall is still there, slightly spruced up—but the real story is the revitalization of the streets around it: Pedestrianized and pumped full of tax breaks, they were filled with shoppers and users of the countless cafés, bars, and restaurants. It was all very pleasant, but really not very different from what was inside the mall, or what you could find in the next town over. If this is public space, if this is the salvation of the city, I am not that interested. I will use it and enjoy it, but only as a consumer sedated by the spectacle our consumer society has to offer.
Several of my recent posts have touched on the notion of public space and identity. My focus has been on asking the question of whether there still is some space, both physical and mental, that we share as a community or communities. The central problem, as I see it, is the privatization of space, as we wealthy few retreat into our conditioned cocoons and condense our contexts into screens, venturing outside in equally controlled environments, while millions are forced to wander a space that does not belong to them, in which they have no rights, and from which they are often excluded. In a virtual sense, our collective identities (and they are always multiple) are more and more the domain of either private entities or state organizations over which we have little control.
Read the Full Story HERE >>>> Source: Architect Magazine The Architecture of Liminal Spaces