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The End of Public Spaces: Coursework

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Are we seeing the end of public spaces

Public spaces take different visible forms, with different degrees of public access such parks, playgrounds,highstreet and open spaces. They have physical and conceptual importance in our society for they are an essential part in the social life of communities (Worpole & Knox, 2007 ). However, public spaces are being encroached as not everyone in this society has access through exclusion of certain groups and not feeling welcomed there. Also new and more accessible public places are forming like the Internet and more privatised public areas like shopping malls, possibly causing the end of traditional public spaces.

One key part of public space is that these areas are accessible to the general public. The classical view on public spaces was more where citizens gathered in the city like in the agora in Ancient Greece (Koch and Latham 2011). It can be argued that nowadays the public areas like a market are not as vital to people as other places seem more attractive. Another reason why the public areas are not as vibrant, is due to exclusion to theses places. Though exclusion of social groups have occurred throughout history from black people being excluded during the Apartheid and women not allowed into some public spheres (Houssay-Holzschuch & Teppo, 2009).

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Currently the rise of defensive architecture to ‘safeguard’ public spaces but the question arises that the area is now not actually public places (May, 2014). One way these areas are achieving this is by making benches more uncomfortable by putting more armrests down thus to prevent people lying down on them. Another way homeless people are removed from public areas is by using surprised sprinklers making the ground deliberately wet to exclude people from resting there.So it means that homeless people are being forced out of those places, purely because of their situation and the lack of shelter. Privatisation of areas are forcing out the marginalised in society, due to the need for more capital gains. As Mitichell points out that public spaces “are-too often privatised” through gentrification (Mitchell and Staheli,2009: p.512). The ones that suffer the most from these developments are the poorer people and the homeless these places are becoming more affluent and are forced out due to their financial position.

In contrast to the previous point, the amount of public spaces and the value of these areas has increased. Open spaces are still being developed and protected, these areas like parks and high streets provide welfare benefits for the public. As in the research paper, one of the key findings was that public spaces give people a ' feel good’ buzz and therapeutic enjoyment (Worpole & Knox 2007). Parks and high streets provide services and enjoyment for the majority of the public. As children and elderly people can use parks to rest in nature but also to explore and play. There is not equality in these places as young people’s and children’s needs in an area are overlooked (Worpole & Knox 2007).

There has been a decline in public spaces due to there being more choices on where people can interact with one another. So the importance of traditional public spaces like parks are decreasing while new forms are emerging. As the Internet is becoming a more popular public forum as most people have access to the internet. Thus there is less physical exclusion and its quicker to communicate through the internet. As in the past people would value the open spaces as a key place to socialise. So in this sense the traditional values of public space has gone down and subsequently the use of them. Nevertheless there is still some popularity for public spaces like natural parks, as people still find them useful and attractive. As it pleasing for the city dwellers to have some space to enjoy nature. London is a particularly green city with the newest development being the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which provides lots of biodiversity with: rivers, waterways and The Great British Garden. The benefits of this development as it now attracts more people to use this public space and to enjoy the wildlife.

To conclude, public spaces have changed physically over time from being markets and businesses to more leisure and relaxing like parks and high streets. Also the value of public spaces has changed as people don't need to always go to those areas. So, as the importance of the parks and town centres goes down there is a feeling that public spaces as we knew are ending as well. To an extent that's true as not as many people may regard these places as important. Due to the emergence of the internet which can be seen as a public space, where the issue of exclusion is less than in traditional public spaces.Though I don't see the end of public spaces more a change what defines an area as a public space.


  1. Houssay-Holzschuch M. and Teppo A. (2009) A mall for all? Race and Public Space in post-apartheid Cape Town ​Cultural geographies 16 ​,​ ​pp351-379.
  2. Koch, R. and Latham, A. (2012) ‘Re-thinking public space: accounts from a junction in West London’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37, pp. 515-529.
  3. May, J. (2014) 'Exclusion', in Cloke, P., Crang, P. and Goodwin, M. (eds) Introducing Human Geographies (Arnold, London), pp. 655-668.
  4. Mitchell, D. and Staeheli, L. A. (2009), 'Public Space', in Kitchin, R. and Thrift, N. J. (eds).
  5. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (London, Elsevier), pp. 511-516.
  6. Worpole, K. and Knox, K. (2007) ‘The Social Value of Public Spaces’ ​Joseph Rowntree Foundation​, York pp. 1-16.
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