zondag 25 december 2011


Public place is in an existential crisis due to the technological development that is responsible for the disappearance of collective clusters which were inherent to the traditional communities. 

Many contemporary ideas about public places are born out of a nostalgic feeling in which a geographically group of people expresses their bond on a social, political and economic way at these places (squares, parks). But this nostalgia is too romantic, preventing the development of ideas about public place. History shows us that there has never been public places where everybody was welcome and could participate in the social, political or economic network of a community. 

Even the Greek-Roman Forum, a beloved example of great public space, was only accessible for free men. And the great 19th century parks were only accessible for the bourgeoisie.

Certain groups of people have been always excluded from these public forums. Social revolutions in the 20th century have liberated these groups and tolerance towards 'more strange' behavior in the public realm was propagandized. In addition, the growing individualization and cocooning in the 20th century (mass-consumption, pop-culture) let to the 'evacuation of the public realm' by the middle and high class. Less 'eyes on the street' (Jane Jacobs) let to a growing feeling of insecurity which let to the privatization of public place.
I think the misconception about public place is the difference between the geographically bond and the social, economic and/or political bond that people have.
That's why 
1) it's not strange that the middle class gave up these public forums and that the mall would became their collective realm. There are rules of conduct and the exclusion of certain groups. Becoming a consumer instead of a civilian, is a price they are willing to pay.
2) critics who say that malls are bad because they keep shoppers away from downtowns; they change people's perception of public space into consumer space; they prevent social, economic and political intervention between people due to a lack of social, economic and political diversity, peculiar to a traditional city (nostalgia!) are not entirely right. 

Then there is the increasing Disneyfication of the city due to the economic importance of mass tourism which leads to 'urban safaris'. The public realm is now a historic attraction designed to be consumed. The once excluded groups of people are excluded again.

There are no real public places, only collective places. Different types of people are excluded in these different collective places. But they are successful in their own way! And that's no coincidence.

This leads to my project statement. There is no standard public place, only different types of collective places. If we want to restore a social, economic and political interaction between civilians this has to be done by creating an interaction of these collective places. The urbanization of collective places (SolĂ  Morales).


For most of human history we lived in small tribal groups of 50 to 250 people and at instinctual level we still crave bonds to people outside our immediate families. It is psychological nourishing to feel connected to those we live among, not necessarily as close friends but as acquaintances with whom we can enjoy a regular chat. We have a built-in, probably biologically rooted, need to live in proximity with a tribe, working and celebrating cooperatively within a geographically neighborhood.

A chain of technological changes through the 20th century gave us less and less reason to leave our homes. Cars, telephone, Internet and many more inventions transformed our daily life to a point where many people wonder if we need public space at all. 

Now we are rediscovering the street, the square, the park, the market etc are essential to our well-being. The lifeblood of nearly every community is a congenial local point where you can sit down with friends and neighbors to pass the time and find out what's going on.

The cultural and democratic life of a city depends on viable public space, it creates a strong sense of community and pride. It is essential to capture the essence of place and create identity by making a big deal of what's unique.

The public square is where the community gathers for its civic, cultural and social functions.
It gives identity to the city. 4 keywords for successful public space: accessibility, activities, comfort, sociability.

The clay model represents the central spot of such a public place. It is not a design statement, on the contrary.




This presentation is about the site Crown Heights, and in this analysis, we are exploring the grid. During our analysis we have seen a potential to improve the livability of the grid. That’s why we asked ourselves some questions related to these topics.

Our first approach was to define the borders of Crown Heights, between which we collected all kinds of data. But after a while we came to the conclusion that neighborhoods that are located in the grid don't have specific borders. The aspects that form these borders can change in a very short period of time. That is why we changed our area of analysis to a larger area, including parts of adjacent neighborhoods such as East Flatbush, Brownsville, Prospect Heights and Bed-Stuy.

Presentation made by Antrees Engelen, Koen Moesen, Pieter Van den Poel, Arnout Van Soom, and Sofie Verjans.