thoughts on public space

“On a flat a house is built. It is an object standing up on the flat surface. Inside the house there are rooms, volumes of space: but from the outside these are not obvious. All we see is the object. Many houses built together form streets and squares. They enclose space and thus a new factor is added to the internal volumes or spaces

… the outside spaces.

Whereas internal volumes, rooms, are justified in the purely functional sense of construction and shelter, there is no such forthright justification for external space. It is accidental and marginal. Or is it?

In a purely materialistic world our environment would resemble a rock-strewn river, the rocks being building and the river being traffic passing them, vehicular and pedestrian. In fact, this conception of flow is false since people are by nature possessive. A group of people standing or chatting on the pavement colonize the spot and the passer-by has to walk round them. Social life is not confined to the interior of buildings. Where people forgather, there will therefore be some expression of this to give identity to the activity. In other words, the outside is articulated into spaces just as is the inside, but for its own reasons.

…Consequently, instead of a shapeless environment based on the principle of flow, we have an articulated environment resulting from the breaking-up of flow…

…The practical result of so articulating the town into identifiable parts is that no sooner do we create a ‘here’ than we have to admit a ‘there’, and it is precisely in the manipulation of these two spatial concepts that a large part of urban drama arises.”

“…For that matter, it is of slight importance: if you saw it, standing in its midst, it would be a different city… and if you approach, it changes. Each deserve a different name.”
cities and names

“…and then it becomes a full-size city, enclosed within the earlier city and presses it towards the outside.”
hidden cities

texts from:

The Concise Townscape by Gordon Cullen and The Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino


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