Public and Private Spaces of the City

Public and Private Spaces of the City

Public and Private Spaces of the City

Public and Private Spaces of the City

Synopsis

The relationship between public and private spheres is one of the key concerns of the modern society. This book investigates this relationship, especially as manifested in the urban space with its social and psychological significance. Through theoretical and historical examination, it explores how and why the space of human societies is subdivided into public and private sections. It starts with the private, interior space of the mind and moves step by step, through the body, home, neighborhood and the city, outwards to the most public, impersonal spaces, exploring the nature of each realm and their complex, interdependent relationships. Architects, urban planners and designers, architectural historians, will find this book to be thought provoking and stimulating.

Excerpt

Have you ever felt the urge to look inside, when walking down a narrow street and passing in front of a door that is ajar or a window that is half-lit? Have you wondered what lies behind curtains that are drawn, gates that are shut, walls that are high? Have you thought about how objects, signs and symbols may invite you to one place and bar you from another? From inside the buildings, have you spent time standing in front of a window, watching the world go by from a detached, safe distance, or wishing to go to the open spaces outside, meeting your friends in public places or just joining the crowd of strangers?

On the one hand, if we monitor our individual everyday routines, one of the defining features of these routines is how we live in and pass through private and public spaces, and feel and behave accordingly. From the intimate space of the home to the interpersonal space of the school or workplace and the impersonal space of the busy city streets, we are located in different environments at each moment. Depending on our particular circumstances and our understanding of these environments, we feel and behave differently: from a place where we feel comfortable and relaxed to one where we feel the need to be careful and cautious. Many aspects of our mental and behavioural states at each moment, therefore, depend on whether we are on our own, with our intimate friends and relatives, or in the presence of strangers.

On the other hand, if we monitor the spaces of villages, towns and cities, we see how they are broadly structured around a separation of public and private spaces. It appears to be a defining feature of these settlements: how a society divides its space into public and private spheres, and how this division controls movement from one place to another and access to places and activities. This is almost a universal feature of cities, as cities of all cultures, at all historical periods, are organized along some form of public-private lines, although the nature of this division, the meaning of and relationship between public and private spheres vary widely. Ever since the rise of the city, with its division of labour and complex, stratified social and spatial structures, public-private distinction has been a key organizing principle, shaping the physical space of the cities and the social life of their citizens. The distinction between the home and the street that characterizes cities today can also be found in the Mesopotamian city-state of Ur more than four

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