The dynamics of public spaces

The way one approaches a particular space depends, to a large extent, on how that space is conceptualized.

A space that has a diversity of uses is fluid by nature, it is a space where people are coming and going without any apparent order.

To act upon the space, organizations need different strategies that will allow them to materialize the space’s dynamic. These strategies are mostly medial in nature–like graphs, polls, texts, videos and many others. The key quality of these forms is that they allow decision-makers to plan  for interventions.

In the case of public spaces, conceptions of the space often stem out from the interests of each of the stakeholders. These interests sometimes collide–on other times, they feed of each other.

This ongoing process of competing interests gives a unique character to a space, shaping and determining the culture and the environment around it.

Jane Jacobs, the social urbanist referred to these multiple dynamics as the “choreography of the street”, stating that, in healthy streets, different elements interacted with each other to create an entropic order.

At any given time, there are a variety of threads cutting through public space and untangling them is particularly hard.

The type of categories used to untangle the threads are largely dependent on what one wishes to find.

At the individual level, stakeholders can range from the pedestrians that pass through on their way to workers and residents that live on such space. Homeless people, drug dealers, sex-workers and other “undesirables” also have a stake in the space.  

At a more collective level, there are formal and informal associations make claim to the space. There are businesses whose interest lie on making the space beneficial for their clients and themselves. There also institutions like the government, who are in charge of providing and maintaining infrastructure, ensuring security and promoting civic rights.

Lastly there are also institutions that study the space and intervene in the cultural politics that bring them to life.

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