Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

This site uses cookies. By using our services, you agree to our cookie use.
Learn more here.

Never Read the AR in Print? Claim Your Free Copy of February's Issue Today

Get a complimentary copy of The Architectural Review while stocks last by signing up to our editorial newsletter

If you have never read a copy of The Architectural Review in print you are missing out. The combination of a painstaking editorial process and awards winning graphic designers, The Architectural Review Magazine a beautiful magazine containing timeless articles that architects keep for years.

This month we are giving away 300 copies of February’s issue for free! Editor Catherine Slessor has written an introduction to the issue’s themes and articles below. To claim your complimentary copy simply sign up to recieve our twice-weekly editorial Viewsletter. We’ll email you to ask for your postal address when the offer has closed.

Sign up for the AR twice-weekly Viewsletter

 

cov

 

RAJ

wwm

 

crab

shenzhen

theory

archiv

Introduction to The Archtectural Review February 2014

Just over 20 years ago, Mike Davis and Michael Sorkin predicted the end of public space as we knew it. ‘America’s cities are being rapidly transformed by a sinister and homogeneous design’, they wrote at the time. ‘A newkind of urbanism - manipulative, dispersed, and hostile to traditional public space - is emerging both at the heart and at the edge of town in megamalls, corporate enclaves, gentrified zones, and pseudo-historic marketplaces.It marked the beginning of the realisation that public space was being stealthily privatised and commodified; the historic freedoms of the agora and the piazza replaced by the patrolled and proscribed confine of the theme park and shopping mall.

This creeping proscription has long since become a pervasive feature of modern life. The urban realm is no longer an armature for spontaneous human interaction; it’s a film set, up close and personal, with battalions of CCTV cameras documenting every waking and walking move we make. In a statistic as absurd as it is depressing, there are estimated to be nearly 6 million security cameras in the U K, one for every 10 people. Why does a small island with a relatively mild-mannered population feel such intense paranoia about how its citizens behave in public?

Fundamentally, the character of public space is shaped and defined by how people choose to use it. Yet such a laissez-faire philosophy is increasingly regarded as inimical. A bill currently making its waythrough the UK parliament proposes to expand the power of the state to control what goes on in public space, mitigating any activity considered ‘detrimental’ to the quality of life with powers of prohibition, dispersal and confiscation. Seeing beyond the kind of mentality that could regard things such as carol singing and nudists as being a legal ‘nuisance’, the bill’s implications are profound. ‘This is a new alliance of a business and state elite set against civil society’, writes Josie Appleton. The proposed new powers have the potential to prohibit ‘any activity that is not shopping or getting from A to B’. Two decades on, it is the logical culmination of the trajectory identified by Sorkin and Davis ‘in which the idea of authentic interaction among citizens has been thoroughly purged’.

How can we rediscover the essential idea of public space and recast and reconnect with it at both the political and personal level? Throughout history, public space has acted as a vital conduit for recreation, expression and democracy. The character of public space defines civic life. ‘People come not to be alone, but to be together; to interact, exchange, trade, innovate and collaborate’, writes Benjamin Barber in this month’s Broader View. But it is just this comingtogether that now seems to be under threat. ‘In constructing public space, designers and planners bring to bear the defining density, creativity, diversity, openness and communality that are the city’s character,’ writes Barber. ‘They are exploiting the city’s core feature: its liberty’. But for how much longer?

Catherine Slessor, Editor

Sign up for the AR twice-weekly Viewsletter

 

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.