Interior Public Space

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Thesis Presentation
16th January 2014, 12:00h

Delft University of Technology
Aula Congress Centre, Senate Room
Mekelweg 5

‘Interior Public Space, On the Mazes in the Network of an Urbanist’ is the result of ten years of scientific research on the evolution of interior public spaces. It explores the development of the phenomenon in a time era when general accepted theoretical understanding on public space in urbanism has been established, increasingly neglecting or even rejecting the existence of public spaces within the interior. The subject is, and the research cases have been very international. They uncover relatively unknown knowledge and in syntax they are recombined to achieve new and unexpected insights.

Interior Public Space Book 9 (The Multiplicity) Chapter 2, pp. 519-520
2014 0116 Interior Public Space (Thesis Presentation) Layman’s Speech

In every city, I see certain interiors acting like public space, simply because there are a lot of people. People pass-by, they gather, they meet, they flirt, they exchange ideas or goods. People make the public space. […] I realised that what I call ‘public’ space, is based on a Indo-European / Greco-Roman notion – difficult words, but: Let’s say a Western notion. So I decided to focus on interior public spaces in the West, where we more or less share the same idea of what is… ‘public’.  In this line, I define the phenomenon. In other words: What is ‘public’ space? Some would say: you are my public and this is a space, so public space. Still, generally, in the West, there are 3 ways to define public space: [1] Public may refer to the people in general – thus, public space is used by people, [2] Public may refer to the government, representing the people – thus, public space is safeguarded and controlled by the government, and [3] Public may also refer to the opinion and knowledge we share – so, public space is known by many. To underline the definition of public space, theoretical professionals like to quote old stuff. To make their point, they refer to books called ‘De Re Publica’ of Cicero, or they quote for example ‘Politeia’ written by Plato. They often conclude that public space should concern everybody. Egoism is taboo. As such, discussing public space is politics. And thus theorists also take position. They often state that in the public space everybody should have a place. In the last 150 years, when our cities grew very fast – the government seriously had to safeguard the public interest. – In everybody’s interest, the government liked to own public space to control its public quality. And still today, in theory, public space is called public, mainly because it is owned by the government. No matter if a space is used or known by people. So, public space was aimed to be publicly-used, publicly-owned and publicly-known (1, 2, 3) and very important: certainly not private!

Critics aim for what is called in the publication a kind of absolute public space: public from every angle. Yet, what is written down in their books is not really done in practice. In the recent years, some theorist do acknowledge that public space is not always either completely public or completely private. Accepting this, these progressive thinkers suggest that certain spaces, if not all, are not public nor private, but something in-between or something generic. So not black nor white, but a kind of grey. They call interior public space for instance ‘semi-public space’, ‘collective space’ or ‘privately-owned public space’… Or they see everything as ‘generic space’ or ‘lost space’. – Boring like grey… They end up with a new notion, and as such in essence they still not fully acknowledging public nature of certain interiors.

In addition, there are though a few urban theorist, who really acknowledge that public space exists within interiors. Only a few. These thinkers see many differences between ‘a street’ and ‘an arcade’ or let’s say ‘a mall’. Yet, they qualify all of them as public space and approach them equally. The publication presents research as a continuation of their searches, because obviously, interior public space have been there for quite some time, if not: always. When today’s theory on public space emerged, public interiors were there too. It constructs the evolution of a set of interior public spaces to counter theory. The books do not focus on theory but foremost on practice. Here, one can find many lessons how people have created public space in the interior. Arcades, for example, are intentionally designed to play a role in the city’s public network. In the practice of designing bazaars, another type epistemologically studied, one sees a different picture then the impression we get from theory. Almost no interior as such was owned by the public government, but all were used by the people at large. And designers found ways to deal with this. While studying the mall, the skyway, and the subway, likewise, different design evolution reveals lessons to be learned from practice. The bottom line is that many people like those spaces. It may be the place where you meet your friends. Each epistle, focussing on inherited characteristics of a type, uncovers knowledge on what and who makes interior spaces public and how designers and others play a role in this.

One can learn, how the public quality of an interior, or any public space, is formed by [i] the people using the interior, [ii] public governments, controlling the interior by representations and [iii] the public opinions, aggregating what people think – in several media. – One can also learn in what way [α] the designs, [β] the actors in the designs, and [γ] the actual built interiors have affected the public qualities of interior public spaces. It all depends on specific situations: the specific culture of a city and the specific socio-spatial contexts. And, it all influence each other. It is a challenge for professionals to cope with all this information. Yet, as long as professionals keep focussing on the absolute public space and forget multiplicity, they make a professional blunder.

Interior Public Space - Arcade Banner

Harteveld, Maurice (2014) Interior Public Space, On the Mazes in the Network of an Urbanist, A Scientific Journey of a Designer, Following the Evolution of Greco-Roman Thoughts, Through Some Remarkable Indo-European Cities, Including those in The Americas, Crossing the Turkic and Arabic Spheres in their Proximity, and Abridging to the Japanese Capital as Introductory Exemplar, to Reconstruct Today’s Reasoning on Public Interiors by Means of Defining Types, Interrelating People and Actions, Describing Socio-Spatial Transformations, and Comprehending Cultural Meaning, In Nine Books; Delft: Delft University of Technology, Faculty Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences

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