Truly Public Space Disappearing

As cities grow, the spaces within them that are truly public diminish, according to this piece. But even with few public spaces, public activities can still thrive.

2 minute read

March 30, 2011, 8:00 AM PDT

By Nate Berg

This post from The Wall Street Journal's India Realtime blog looks at how the lack of public space affects the feeling of cities in India.

"In a city like New Delhi, well-protected and spacious historical sites, public parks, plazas and malls stand as a contrast to the action-packed and crowded streets of the anti-thesis of the world class in the very local, Chandni Chowk. In neighborhoods that decidedly don't fit with the world class vision, such as Dharavi in Mumbai, where any space is currency, designated public space is virtually non-existent but the spirit of the public infuses every nook and corner. Crowded streets become collective spaces during festivals; temples and shrines become either thoroughfares or meeting points; they remain oases of calm or contribute to the general din.

A layer of public-ness settles onto traffic-infested streets when collective prayer has to happen and for that one moment waves of urban chaos freeze, and allow for that incredible flash of community to manifest itself before crashing back into their usual stormy selves a few minutes later. More often than not, leisure, commercial and communication uses share the same space and time: streets are typically used simultaneously as a playground by kids, sales points by a street vendor, pedestrian links to the train station, as well as meeting places for residents, drying spaces for clothes and advertising spaces for movies and recruitment agencies."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 in The Wall Street Journal

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