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Wed Mar 30, 2016, 07:28 PM

The Craving for Public Squares

This is a really good article in the NYRB.

The Craving for Public Squares
by Michael Kimmelman

The twenty-first century is the first urban century in human history, the first time more people on the planet live in cities than donít. Experts project that some 75 percent of the booming global population will be city dwellers by 2050. Dozens of new cities are springing up in Asia, their growth hastened by political unrest, climate change, and mass relocation programs that have cleared vast swaths of the Chinese countryside. Much of the growth in countries like India and Bangladesh is chaotic and badly planned. In many growing cities across the Global South there are serious shortages of water, sanitation, and housing, along with increasing air pollution. The United States has some of the same problems on a smaller scale, while here urban development is also being stimulated by growing numbers of university graduates and empty-nesters who are rejuvenating downtowns and rejecting suburbia, the culture of commuting, sprawl, and the automobile.

Not that suburbs have stopped growing, but since the late 1990s, the share of automobiles driven by people in their twenties in America has fallen from 20.8 percent to 13.7 percent. The number of nineteen-year-olds opting out of driverís licenses has tripled since the 1970s from 8 to 23 percent. Electric, self-driving vehicles may soon revolutionize transportation and urban land use. Meanwhile, deindustrialization, plummeting crime rates, and increasing populations of singles and complex, nontraditional families have reshaped many formerly desolate urban neighborhoods.

People are moving downtown for jobs, but also for the pleasures and benefits of cultural exchange, walkable streets, parks, and public squares. Squares have defined urban living since the dawn of democracy, from which they are inseparable. The public square has always been synonymous with a society that acknowledges public life and a life in public, which is to say a society distinguishing the individual from the state. There were, strictly speaking, no public squares in ancient Egypt or India or Mesopotamia. There were courts outside temples and royal houses, and some wide processional streets.


I especially love the historical overview of the concept of a "public square."

I also think that an article like this has some applicability for our "public squares" in cyberspace, as well.

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Reply The Craving for Public Squares (Original post)
Chitown Kev Mar 2016 OP
Baobab Mar 2016 #1
Chitown Kev Mar 2016 #4
arcane1 Mar 2016 #2
Chitown Kev Mar 2016 #3

Response to Chitown Kev (Original post)

Wed Mar 30, 2016, 07:31 PM

1. But, people would MEET and TALK there....

Have to nip that in the bud.

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Response to Baobab (Reply #1)

Wed Mar 30, 2016, 07:46 PM

4. Even Jane Jacobs was talking about this in

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Of course, there are other dimensions to this that the author doesn't even go into: who (in America, at any rate) is moving into these spaces...to what extent are these spaces being commodified, etc...

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Response to Chitown Kev (Original post)

Wed Mar 30, 2016, 07:35 PM

2. Naomi Klein's excellent "No Logo" talks about the loss of public squares

 

Without public spaces to congregate, people tend to congregate on private space, such as malls, where "freedom of speech" doesn't apply.

Where does one peaceably assemble to petition the government if all the available spaces are privately owned?

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Response to arcane1 (Reply #2)

Wed Mar 30, 2016, 07:43 PM

3. I'd have to check out that bit by Naomi Klein

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