Interview with David Harvey on Public Space

Interview with David Harvey on Public Space


I think I have a bit of a problem with
the term public space because there’s a lot of public space in a city which is
highly regulated and controlled by the state and therefore is not free and open
for all kinds of different things to happen as we know there are lots of
privatized public spaces and shopping malls and places like that these days
so there’s been an erosion it seems to me of places of sociality where
something different can go on where all kinds of activities can be conjoined
together I like better the idea of an urban Commons which is a political
concept which says that this space is open for all kinds of people to mix
together and become confused and perhaps conflict and work things out and I think
one of the missions we should have is to liberate public space from state
regulation and from exclusive state activities so that they become free and
open spaces and then they become the common space of the people first up you
got to leave aside all of those public projects which are actually designed
from the very beginning to increase property values because a lot of public
investments are precisely about doing that so it’s not an accident that public
investment goes into produce something like say the High Line in New York
City which is increased private property values around it enormously how do you resist it? you’re not going to be able to resist it all
the time everything around it is a private property because the
property owners are going to utilize it and the like the only thing that would
stop it is that the property around it not be in private hands or if it is in
private hands it’s in private hands in such a way that cannot be speculation on
the value of the property or the value of the land which means that you have to
have some common ownership structures in place around it so that the improvement
is something which is useful for those people who live there not for the owners
there are obvious things to try to do which you begin to see in cities you
know special bus lanes and things like that which can move much faster so that
people yeah begin to get the idea they want to move around in the city and
there’s better getting on a bus because the bus is going to get there faster
than you would get there by car so there are adjustments of that kind which
it seems to me which make the car less and less attractive visa via other modes
of transportation so you have to start to you know reassert and of course you have
to encourage people into other modes of transportation the bike lanes if they’re
safe one of the one first rules is you do not respond to the fact that
you’ve got traffic jams everywhere by increasing the capacity of your road
network for car travel because the rule is that the amount of traffic will
increase up to the level of capacity to create traffic jams even though you’ve
added another lane to the road it is a crazy economy I mean I
when I’m in South Paulo I say you know here you have a city that is based on
automobile production and the automobiles go straight out of the car
plant and onto the road and sit in traffic jams for five hours what kind of
is that a sane economy or not and the answer is well it’s insane well why are
you doing it? it’s among the big questions but I don’t see any answer to
that because you know the automobile is a big source of employment and well
you’ve got to find out the sources of employment and other ways to try
to serve this city and I don’t think many of the high-tech solutions you know
like the automated bus lanes and the smart city kind of data stuff well okay
it’s better than nothing of course but frankly it’s not going to go very far I
used to love Washington Square Park in New York City where there are all kinds
of things going on people playing chess down here people walking their dogs in
this corner people were sitting making music in this corner and this corner and
this corner but under the Bloomberg administration there was this thing
about making urban parks kind of almost suburban parks so that they were very
good for running assemblies for daffodils and tulips are all nodding
their heads in the wind you know and that this looked pretty and so
flowerbeds and these things and grass on which you can sit only one day a week
those kinds of things this is what I mean about a public space which then
gets regulated in such a way that it can no longer be a space where all kinds of
different crazy things can happen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *