Rethinking urban public space: accounts from a junction in West London

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Abstract

There has been remarkable enthusiasm for redesigning and reanimating urban public spaces in recent years. Yet geographical and urban research has tended to interpret these changes through a relatively limited set of concerns related to exclusion, encroachment and claim-making. This paper seeks to extend engagement with the concept of public space. It does so by arguing for the need to attend more closely to the generative capacities of public spaces and to the material and practical affordances they can offer. Following a project of intervention in a public space in West London – where a troubled crime hotspot underwent a programme of transformation – we suggest that there is much to be gained from broadening attention to the ways in which everyday spaces of public life are assembled: to different ways of inhabiting public space, to atmospheres that are produced, and to the ways in which material interventions enable and constrain the potentialities of spaces and their publicness. Our aim in doing so is to foster attention to, and develop an understanding of, the many instances where cities might become more inclusive, more convivial and generally better for the people that inhabit them.

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