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Spatial Stories from a Local Street

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Jemma Browne
University of Nottingham, UK
This paper argues that a careful examination of social space will reveal a richer understanding of the construction of place within urban design. The public space of the street functions as a social space as well as an economic one; I argue that its identity is created through this socio-spatial practice and revealed in this study through the everyday lives of people living, working and shopping on Radford Road, Hyson Green. At face value it does not appear as a distinctive urban space, but the intensity of everyday urban life actually gives it a unique and multi-faceted meaning.

To construct a meaningful representation of the street, we need to explore it at multiple scales using appropriate methodologies and theoretical approaches. I am proposing that a ‘hierarchy of seeing’ will produce a holistic representation and will allow us to know the city in a deeper and more intimate way. In this paper, I have proposed that we embrace this multiscalar characterisation and use it to frame our methodology; to be able to gain a more variegated understanding of city spaces we must examine them at many scales and use multiple methodologies and varied proximities to reveal a fuller picture.

I started this piece of work with what seemed to be diametrically opposed positions; on the one hand I made maps and analysed how spaces appeared on paper; could a sympathetic sense of place be created by good enclosure and legibility? At the other end of the spectrum I wrestled with philosophical abstractions of the meaning of space. How could these two approaches even come close measuring the same thing? It was only when I started my fieldwork that I began to realise that these methodologies were not in opposition to each other; but that they could reveal multiple spatialities within the streetscape. I developed an approach which I call a ‘hierarchy of seeing’ which enables me to bring together these diverse sets of literature and order them. It produces a continuum rather than a linear process; there is some blurring between the orders reflecting the overlapping spatialities of the street.

Jemma Browne

Katharina Borsi
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