What is the future of our Public Spaces?
The privatising of public spaces and the future of Architecture has come back into focus after the exposure of segregated play areas in mixed developments. privatising public spaces and the future of Architecture. Patrik Schumacher notoriously said that all public space should be privatised so that it can accomplish its potential. Can we justify sacrificing the freedom our public lands offer, for beautifully curated interventions?
In the UK we are quite proud of our public parks and squares. They reflect our values of inclusiveness and equality. However, some would argue that these blank canvases are inefficient and can become breeding grounds for less preferable activities. This pollutes the remainder of all public spaces. Whereas in the past, public squares and parks were bubbling hubs of activity and social interaction, this has decreased massively in the last decades. People are now using private land and indoor spaces in favour of communal spaces.
Privatising Public Spaces with the Demand for Architecture
Privatising public land makes it become more valuable and sought after. It also makes it more likely the land will be put to better use. There will be competition for the best utilities and activities here. Conversely, with the freedom to design aggressively, comes the power to control who uses these spaces and how they are used. Furthermore, this is not a guaranteed formula to catalyse growth in these spaces. Their high value would attract property collectors and this sometimes results in stagnant spaces. The voids simply held for their value, which causes further disparity between the residents and users.
The land owned by the local government has decreased to 40% of what it was 40 years ago.
As architects, our first impulse is to design wherever we see an opportunity, but we are also very conscious of our role as guides to the end users’ ambition for that space. We create spaces which can be harnessed to act as catalysts for the growth of society. The freedom and ambiguity that these spaces allow mean that they are constantly changing and adapting to their users. The more specific and controlled these become the more restrictive they are. Our place rather than to privatise and over-design public spaces is to facilitate the end users wishes and ensure these spaces are maintained and accessible to all people.