Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City

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Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Public space in an age of austerity. Open Access. First Online: 15 February Introduction Since the financial crisis of governments, municipalities, developers and ultimately communities have had to rapidly adapt to a new more uncertain reality. The approach The research underpinning this paper utilised a qualitative heuristic dialogue to explore the topic, with programmed face to face expert interchanges between the authors supplemented by the collection of local examples of the phenomena explored, selected interviews with local stakeholders, and then comparison across the cases study cities against a preconceived analytical framework.

Agnostics and advocates Analysis begins with a brief exploration, city by city, of the changing and varying political and policy context for public spaces and how these have responded to the drive for austerity. London London, the largest of the four cities, demonstrates this binary approach well and, reflecting the diversity of initiatives in recent years in the city, features heavily in the comparison that follows. Boris Johnson, the second mayor, came to power in May just as the grip of austerity began to tighten.

His early emphasis was on leafy outer London, and he actively embraced austerity, even before it began to bite nationally after Consequently, Johnson quickly set about dismantling the high-profile public space programmes of his predecessor, including a plan to re-design Parliament Square, he disbanded Design for London the Mayoral design team , and announced the closure of the London Development Agency; previously a major source of project funding.

Yet Johnson also inherited responsibility for delivering the London Olympics in and stimulating the housing market in London that had crashed spectacularly in These priorities, alongside his political concern for outer London notably their struggling high streets and penchant for innovative projects, meant that, despite contrary signs at the start, he also quickly embraced a strategic public spaces role for the city.

In fact he continued to invest heavily in public spaces throughout the austerity years Carmona , p. Open image in new window. The situation has been exacerbated by the financial situation and the resulting tight municipal budgets which encouraged a sell off of property by various state actors railway, harbour, public transport lands, etc. To a greater extent than ever before the city authorities now rely on the market to deliver such space, and to do so have developed a range of more sophisticated design governance tools Selvig ; Sirowy Like Norway, the global financial crisis affected Sweden less than other OECD countries OECD , but Sweden had entered an age of austerity long before following its industrial crisis of the early s.

The resulting urban policy led to significant investments in the city, including the establishment of new public spaces that have been acknowledged internationally for their quality Fig.

To finance this, the city sold the Sydkraft public power plant Holgersson , p. Space as spectacle As already noted, public space quality is often placed in the vanguard of perceived needs for cities to compete with each other globally, and the architectural competition is a common means to achieve this Strebel and Silberberger Pre-crisis, the City of Copenhagen had a major focus on developing and renewing public spaces through ambitious design schemes based on international competitions. Its , urban space action plan prescribed a double strategy of metropolitan projects in the city centre and local projects in residential neighbourhoods to upgrade existing areas and create a number of new, unique urban spaces City of Copenhagen a , b , p.

Although conceived before , most of these were constructed and opened in the midst of the financial crisis. Each, for good or ill, extended traditional notions of public space Cho et al. A similar multi-functional approach is seen in Oslo where the health impacts of public space design are now well established as a driver of practice, leading to a strong focus on the recreational opportunities provided by public spaces.

Valuing the temporary and exploratory Arguably, debates relating to the privatisation of public space are so hotly pursued precisely because such interventions, for good or ill, are so permanent. Reflecting on this move to the temporary, Tonkiss , p. But Kamvasinou , p.

In Copenhagen, many private development projects came to an abrupt halt in and landowners had to seek alternative strategies to make their sites profitable. The resulting spaces became very popular and were promoted for their experimental approach to urban design Hausenberg et al. Later, independently funded activities moved into the area including a climbing obstacle course, a container city flea market, a beach bar, and a range of cultural institutions; all helping to give rise to a distinct Carlsberg culture. Once the market took off again and development activities kicked off, most of the temporary projects disappeared to the regret of many local citizens, leading to public debate over the value and objectives of temporary projects for urban development.

Following the sale of assets, the municipality was able to cover infrastructure costs in the Western Harbour prior to the financial crisis; believed at the time to be a necessary precondition for developers to invest in the area. Developers, however, subsequently found a ready market for their products and owners have also earned good money when within two years the price of their flats doubled 10 Fig. In London, although public expenditure has been dramatically cut back during the austerity years, expenditure on new public space projects has faired relatively well care of its association with expenditure on the Olympic Games, and latterly on public transport.

During this period also, Government has been on a journey. In the past, it viewed such infrastructure as costly bits of technical kit to be delivered at minimum cost to the public purse and with little concern for the local impact. Only now is a realisation dawning that such investments are pieces of city building with huge place-making potential well beyond the infrastructure itself Savills , pp. From utilitarian to leisure and specialist uses Whilst the gradual re-balancing of space already refereed to in favour of pedestrians and cyclists is likely to be a long-term trend across the four cities, other pressures are also acting to change how public spaces are used.

A tale of two cities and different populations If, for some users, public spaces have become places of leisure, for others this is not the case. The rise in visible homelessness has also been dramatic, with changes in migration patterns across Europe, austerity-led reductions in benefits entitlements in the UK, and cuts in services for the homeless and those with mental health difficulties, all leading to significant rises in rough sleepers Crisis Fig.

People find their favourite and use it like their own garden. The park no longer belongs to the municipality, it belongs to you and me. And we use it very differently. In Oslo, the management of public spaces and parks has been progressively outsourced. When first mooted, this raised concerns because of the unique competences that already existed in the public sector. The city also has an increasing range of public activities occurring on private land and the private management of publicly accessible space has occurred more often.

A study of management practices in Tjuvholmen Fig. In this new and exclusive neighbourhood on the Oslo waterfront, the public have access to facilities for swimming in the fjord which is popular on hot summer days. In the UK, a second narrative of community empowerment and localism has accompanied that of austerity. Some see this as a cynical attempt to paper over the cracks left by cuts in public services Hambleton but community and local action has certainly flourished in some of the gaps.

Notably this has included significant numbers of community groups now involved in green space management across London Bawden , such as the Rocky Park community garden in Bethnal Green where volunteers have transformed an unloved hang-out into a productive space for flowers and vegetables. Elsewhere, crowd funding is being used to innovate new projects as diverse as The Line art walk along the River Lee Fig.

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In London, the installation of security measures physical barriers in a few high-profile public spaces has been the subject of much debate with a degree of target hardening around prominent buildings such as the Houses of Parliament and recently on bridges over the River Thames Fig. The resulting interrogation of security arrangements led to accusations that government had been negligent given the ease with which it was possible to drive up to the entrance of a government building with a car bomb NOU , p. Careful consideration is now being given to security issues and how that balances with democratic access in relation to the public spaces being proposed for the new government quarter Regjeringskvartalet proposed in Oslo.

Unfortunately, on this most confounding of management issues, the vehicle attacks in London demonstrated how profoundly difficult it is to prevent such attacks without impacting on the democratic nature of European cities. Evolving power relationships Terry Farrell , p. Interview, Head of public space development, City of Copenhagen. Adams, S. Amin, A.

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SAGE Reference - The Contradictions of Urban Public Space: The View from London and New York

Architects, Gehl. Copenhagen: Gehl Architects. Google Scholar. Andersson, R. Bawden, T. BBC News. Bergsli, H. Biddulph, M. Urban design, regeneration and the entrepreneurial city. Progress in Planning 63— CrossRef Google Scholar. Bisgaard, H.

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Rapport fra boligvekstutvalget, November Bone, J. Bramall, R. The Cultural Politics of Austerity. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. Carmona, M. Architectural Design 82 1 : 36— Journal of Urban Design 19 1 : 2— Progress in Planning 1— Oxford: Routledge. Cho, I. Heng, and Z. New York: Routledge.

City of Copenhagen. Handlingsplan for byrum [Action Plan for Urban Space]. Copenhagen: City of Copenhagen.

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Handlingsplan for byrum [Action plan for urban space], Copenhagen, City of Copenhagen. Available at: kk.

Copenhagen Climate Resilient Neighbourhood. Urban Life account City of Oslo.

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Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City
Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City
Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City
Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City
Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City
Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City
Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City
Capital Spaces: The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City

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