Assessing the publicness of public places: towards a new model

Varna, Georgiana M. (2011) Assessing the publicness of public places: towards a new model. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The research undertaken in this thesis represents an inquiry into the nature of public space. Its scope is threefold, first, to propose a new way of conceptualising the publicness of public space, defined as the sum of characteristics that make a public space public; second, to create a new methodology for practically assessing public places and third, to test this on several new public place case studies.

The entire thesis is based on a new understanding of publicness as having a dual nature: it can be grasped simultaneously as a cultural reality and as a historical reality. Publicness as a cultural reality means that all public places, created at a certain point in time and in a particular socio-cultural setting, can be understood as reflection of a common held view of what the ideal public space is. In order to grasp this ideal and use it as a standard to measure the publicness of new public places, the researcher gathered and filtered the different conceptions and definitions in the field. It was found out that five key meta-themes determine, through their interaction, the publicness of a public place today, in the western world: ownership, physical configuration, animation, control and civility. These have been gathered into the theoretical Star Model of Publicness which was then translated into a practical tool for measuring public places. However, a public place can be grasped not only as a cultural artefact, it is also as the product of a historical process of placemaking. Its publicness results from the interactions, negotiations and decisions made during its development process. It is in other words, a historical reality. As a result, it was considered that assessing the publicness of a public place comprises two things: first, a measurement of the site as a snapshot against the existent standard of publicness and second, an explanation of that measurement though exploring its development process. This was applied in practice, on three new public places created on the regenerated waterfront of the Clyde, in Glasgow and conclusions were drawn regarding the robustness and usefulness of this approach.

This is a pilot project undertaken with limited resources and by a single researcher in one location/city and is thus not meant to be ‘an ultimate truth’, a unique formula for assessing publicness. Instead, it represents only the beginning step towards a more objective and inclusive way of analysing the publicness of public places.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Part of the theoretical background has been published in the Journal of Urban Design, Vol. 15, Issue 4, November 2010 under the title: Varna, G and Tiesdell, S (2010) Assessing the Publicness of Public Space. The Star Model of Publicness,pp. 575 - 598
Keywords: Public space, modelling and measuring the publicness of public places, privatization of public space, control of spaces, urban design principles, urban regeneration, Glasgow's new public places
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Supervisor's Name: Adams, Prof. David and Tiesdell, Dr. Steve
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Dr. Georgiana Mihaela Varna
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2999
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:02

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