Public spaces for Different Faces (Blog 4)


Determining the use of public space within a city is quite a difficult task in large, democratic countries should as Canada. While reading Jeffery Hou’s article, (Not) your everyday public space, I began to ponder upon the importance of public spaces within a city.  Living in a developed nation, we are fortunate to be provided with public areas for daily recreation and entertainment. The only question is, how public are these spaces?

There would be plenty of arguments in determining the limits of public input in public cities. Just as the pig in Hou’s article, every city could have their own opportunities to express their political, sociological, and economic expression. The issue with all this public expression, is the difference in opinions. What one person might view as art or a legitimate form of expression, may offend other citizens. Graffiti is a perfect example of the issues that could arise among the people in a city. First of all, many people do not see graffiti as a form of art, rather they view it as vulgar and ugly vandalism.  In a diverse city such as Toronto, they are many opinions and cultures colliding together that contrast each other in the most extreme ways.

The article by Mariana Valverde examined the legal and economic points of a public space within a city. Vendors on the streets of Toronto are a very common occurrence in present day although it shocked me that in 1959, Toronto ceased the distribution of vending permits (Valverde, 2012, 151). If a space is public, should permits even need to exist? Vending may seem very unappealing to some people, but it also illustrates culture in a big city (Valverde, 2012).  The variety of different foods being vended can attract many tourists and provide a sense of unity in the city. Not only is it a promotion of culture, vending provides jobs to many people.

Public space and gathering areas promote democracy, as they resemble the positives connotation that stimulates the active participation of citizens within the city (Hou, 2010). Public spaces are a historical cultural place that is crucially important to all cultures and generations in my opinion. There are many famous public spaces that we all know of such as the Spanish Steps in Italy, Times Squares, and even Young and Dundas Square. Public spaces such these can help unify large cities. With the rise of social networking, public spaces are not being utilized to the extent they were in the past. Could the restrictions put upon public spaces be the reason why? Or maybe it’s simply because social networking has made it impossible to talk to someone face-to-face. Just as in the case of vending, public spaces have other restrictions to them. Vandalism, I believe, is a key restriction to most public areas. Since the space is there for everyone’s use, one individual cannot simply mark his/her opinion in a spray painted design.

So ending my opinions, my question to you is, to what extent should a public space be considered “public”, or without any government or political interference?

Hou, J. 2010. (Not) your everyday public space in Hou, J(ed)
Insurgent Public Space, New York; Routledge, 1-11.

Valverde, M. 2012. Putting Diversity on the Menu in Everyday Law
on the Street. United States: University of Chicago Press, 141- 164.

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