One Year Later, Assessing Occupy Wall Street's Effect on Space

On the one-year anniversary of the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, Richard Sennett looks at the movement's legacy with regards to rethinking public space.
September 17, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Although America's Constitution begins with the protection of the freedom of assembly and speech, cities have been able to erode those protections over time by requiring permission for groups to gather in public, and by the blurring of the lines between public and private space. However, with tents and sleeping bags, the Occupy movements were able to test each city's limits on freedom of assembly, writes Sennett.

And, in addition to shining a spotlight on issues such as the "ambiguity in the distinction between 'public' and 'private' in urban areas," and the ambiguity between "secular and sacred space in the city," one of the movement's most profound successes has been to challenge the ways in which urbanists, like Sennett, think about the city.

Says Sennett, "Jane Jacobs once famously declared that 'if density and diversity give life' to public space, 'the life they breed is disorderly.' In my planning work, I've translated this idea into practice by seeking to make self-contained public spaces more porous-for instance, by extending open-air markets into side streets in Beirut or punching more doors into single-entrance buildings in London."

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Published on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in The Nation
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