Public Functions of Un-public Spaces: The Power of Commercial and Privately Owned Space in Shaping Social and Political Life

By Chantal El Hayek.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Public life in the contemporary metropolis has become increasingly tied with the methods of consumption and privatization of space. This paper analyzes how the culture of privatization which, according to Simmel (1903), has influenced the alienation of the individual and the deterioration of public space, contributes today to the development of social and political life. Beirut and New York are examined as two models that have a history of opposing social priorities, as well as disparate ways of town planning, yet share many features that are characteristic of a culture of commercial public space. What constitutes the essence of contemporary public life in the two cities is the rather unplanned agreement for occupying and dominating ‘un-public’/private spaces or ‘un-designed’ public spaces in which people interact freely.

Keywords: Public Spaces, Un-designed Public Spaces, Un-public Spaces, Privatization, Culture of Consumption, Urban Planning, Commercial Space, Malls, Market Place, Souk, Political Protest, Sidewalks, New York, Beirut

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.43-69. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 34.625MB).

Chantal El Hayek

Architecture Faculty, School of Architecture and Interior Design, Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon

Chantal El Hayek is an architect and an academic. She teaches design and theory courses at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. Chantal has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Lebanese American University with high distinction and a Master of Architecture degree from Princeton University where she received a fellowship award. Her research interests are centered on urban topics and the nature and function of civic spaces. She seeks to analyze the intersection between the culture of commerce and public life. Her studies focus on the implications of planning on the physical and social structure of cities, and the degree to which issues like trade concentration, planning regulations, and modernization techniques impact the viability of town centers and transform the configuration and meaning of public spaces.