Below is the figure showing my categories of public non-spaces:
As noted in my first blog, a public non-place – which is generally privately owned - is created for people who want to use the primary service of the owner, and this space is somewhere to wait or pass through. These places have little sense of ownership by the users, and favour solitary behaviour over social interactions.
Please note that all photographs are taken my me, unless otherwise attributed (e.g. from Google Earth).
Close shopping centres
The primary purpose for visiting these shopping centres (called shopping malls in some countries) is for the purchase of goods and services. The typical overall design involves having a main building surrounded by a large parking lot, meaning that the main access is via car. This design has been modified in recent years (see below) but this main design still dominates.
Importantly, it’s the inside of the main building that act as public space. Access to these buildings is controlled by the centre owner/manager, with opening hours strictly controlled. The majority of the retail outlets in the centre can only be accessed from inside the centre, although outlets with extended trading needs, for example pharmacies, are situated near entrances and have access to them from both the outside and inside.
The design of the internal space is what is of interest here. In general, it consists of one, or a few, wide spaces connected to the entry points by narrower transit ways. The wider spaces are generally food halls (Fig 1), which is where people tend to stop and where the social interaction occur. The transit-ways are primarily for walking (Fig 2), although there is occasional seating and quieter spaces provided where people can rest (Fig 3).
These transitways often have small kiosk-type retail outlet or pop-up stalls (Fig 4)
As these spaces are privately owned, access to them tightly regulated, and behaviour also tightly controlled through the use of security guards, there is generally a lack of sense of place in shopping centres. The owner also controls the design of the space, with little, if any, consultation with the users: people are seen as customers rather than users and the internal spaces are designed to encourage shopping.
For the most part, visits to shopping centres are seen as functional – i.e. for shopping – although, as mentioned above, food-halls and cafes offer the opportunity for socialising. However, in extreme weather events – heat waves and cold snaps – people may choose to visit shopping centres purely for social reasons as shopping centres have climate control and offer relief from the extreme weather.
In summary, shopping centres are highly regulated privately owned spaces that are popular destinations for people to primarily carry out shopping, but some of the internal spaces and retail outlets allow for limited socialising. There is generally a very limited sense of place that develop in these spaces.
It’s worth noting that in some cases, shopping centres are adding a ‘main street’ retail strips, which are open areas and with two rows of retail outlets either side of a road (Figs 5 and 6). These retails outlets are often food related and operate for much longer trading hours than the shops within the centre proper. The road is accessible all the time, so, in effect, these operate as open malls – see previous post.
Like shopping centres, these spaces are privately owned and highly functional – they are spaces for people to wait to either catch a train or bus, or to wait for someone to arrive. Typically, they are large enclosed spaces – for example Fig 7, which is the Florence train station.
The transport stations that attract large numbers of people, often have retail outlets, especially fast food, within them – Fig 8.
As with shopping centres, there is generally a lack of sense of place that develops in transport stations, even though there are many visitors.
Notwithstanding this, these stations, especially train stations, are often important, well known and easy to get to locations, and the open space areas in the front of the stations become important meeting places – Figs 9 and 10.
I have used the word ‘place’ here very deliberately as this community acceptance that these spaces are for meeting creates a real sense of place – a ‘meeting’ sense of place. They are equivalent to Town Squares (Amsterdam) or streets (the footpath in front of the Flinders Street train station).
These are, in effect, locations within an otherwise public space that have become privatised or commercialised. Typically, these are areas of public footpaths adjacent to cafés and restaurants that are used for out-door dining. In effect, to get access to these locations visitors have to pay (i.e. order food and/or drinks), and the non-paying public is excluded (Figs 11 and 12).
Areas of town squares and other public parks are also acquired in this way - Fig 13 and 14 – with the worst example if have seen is in Dordrecht in Holland where the only remaining un-acquired space is a walkway – Fig 15.
Another example of acquired space is when private land owners adjacent to public open spaces place their private infrastructure within the space and use it for their own private purposes – Figs 17 and 18.
In some cases, land owners remove the fence which delineates the public/private boundary making the acquiring process more subtle and difficult to detect – Fig 19.
In summary, acquired non-spaces are areas within public open space that have become privatised for either commercial or private use, effectively excluding the broader public.