Lecture 5 Urban Planning and the end of Public Space


The Militarization of Urban


“Fortress LA”

By Mike Davis

The Making of

Urban Public Space

 For many urban residents, public space is something that we inhabit every day, but we tend not to think too much about it.

 We take for granted that cities have parks, sidewalks, libraries, schools, governmental buildings and recreation facilities.

 And we take for granted that we can gain access to these places free of charge and without special privileges such as membership.

 This kind of space is called public space, because it is for public use.

Liberal vs. Post-Liberal View of

Public Space

 Liberal View

– Spaces of Tranquility and Mixed Use

 Fredereck Olmsted - Designed public landscapes and parks to be “natural” so that they would contrast with crowded urban environment, which he viewed as unhealthy. Parks should have different kinds of spaces (fields, walks and paths that flow through the landscape, etc.). These spaces would encourage tranquility for those who use the park.

– Democratic Spaces - Public landscapes and parks as safety valves for social discontent (areas of mixed racial and mixed class recreation and pleasure).

 Post-Liberal View

– Public space should be converted into (semi) private, corporatedominated space for commerce, business and tourism.

– “Safety” is the key concern

Privatization of Public Space

– Unable to pay for parks and other public facilities, cities now allow for private stewardship .

– Malls and exclusive residential enclaves are now replacing parks, recreation centers and public squares.

– Access is reduced because public stewardship is replaced by private stewardship (malls are not exactly public).

 “Less desirables” are kept out by making the park “attractive.”

 BIDs - parks integrated into Business Improvement Districts.

 Control, accountability and vision for public space in the hands of corporate donors and patrons.

Militarization of Space

 Democratization of public space reversed since


 Fear of dangerous “other” has caused parks to be fenced in and closed at night.

 According to geographer Sharon Zukin, public space is now “too dangerous for public culture.”

 More policing, less freedom

Costs of Militarization

 What happens when public space is militarized?

– Middle-class favored as proper park patrons.

– Park aesthetics designed for “normal” people

– Corporations (untaxed) control public space.

 Private security forces control what happens in these spaces?

– “Undesirables” kept out or exploited (homeless).

– Commercial space substituted for truly public space.

Sequestering the Poor

 Removing the homeless from public view.

 Eliminating toilets, park benches and other public facilities.

 Heavy policing of poor neighborhoods.

– “Security” but loss of freedom.

 Containment of poor in certain areas.

– Elimination of public transportation, blocking off of streets and other measures designed to isolate poor and homeless in areas far away from affluent city centers.

New York City – Stop and Frisk

 97,296 in 2002

 531,159 in 2008

 10% result in any fine or arrest

 Disproportionately black and Latino

 Information put into a database

Securing the Rich

 High security design in architecture.

– Malls, libraries and high rise buildings are guarded, surveilled, etc.

 “Fortress enclaves” for the rich.

– Private security forces, high tech security, fortress architecture fortifies the high-tech castles of the rich.

Security by Design

Goldwyn Branch Library in Hollywood

Tompkins Square Park

 Gate-lined walkways

 Curfew

 Semi-public events