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Securing Consensus: The Management of Public Space in the Post-political City

Part 1 Dissertation 2012
Nathan Ozga
Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Edinburgh UK
Throughout the twentieth century the management of public space in the United Kingdom was provided by the state as a utilitarian public service. The public sector control of street management enabled the provision of public space on land not necessarily owned by the public.

The recent emergence of city management as a priority of government has generated a new private industry of urban governance. This development is of particular importance to the United Kingdom, where the management of city space often determines its public status. Whilst the spatial order of a city is created through ownership and planning, management secures the persistence of order in time. A private city order must have different priorities from the public, yet the move towards privatisation has been a consensual process centred around the aestheticisation of order and an agreeable focus on safety and cleanliness.

London provides a rich context for the examination of models of private management and the management of dissent and protest. Through a study of notable sites (Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, More London and Paternoster Square), the dissertation questions what challenges this new regime poses for the definition of public space and the ways in which it redefines ‘the public.’ This investigation reveals that whilst London is seeing increasing investment in the ‘public realm’, it is becoming increasingly unclear how public this realm actually is; an issue pertinent to all urban dwellers.

Public space and its definition are being rewritten to accommodate extensive changes to urban governance and the consensus of government is equally entangled within this redefinition process. Whilst this allows greater protection of the city’s image of security and liveability vital to the global projection of economic prosperity, the role of public space is changing and citizens, activities and the dissent crucial to the democratic city are being managed out by a new private regime.

Nathan Ozga

Tutor(s)
Lisa Moffitt
2012
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