Public Spaces in Transition


  “You are in the midst of a crowd of people meandering through lively streets, alleys and open piazzas. On all sides are stores, cinemas and cafes, in vivid buildings with dazzling signs,’ around you are colorful stalls and push carts, fountain and trees. There is a cacophony of sound enchanting from all directions; there are mime artists and sired performers. It’s chaotic, vibrant and loud. Where are vats,” You are in public space.”-

Jon Jerde

  People are the soul of the city and public spaces serve as nodes in the city, where people gather, and celebrate the goodness of life. Public places have always been a part of human civilization be it a road joining two important destinations, a vibrant street developed along a linkage, a temple square or even a heritage site which aspire people.

Architecture exists, like cinema, in the dimensions of time and movement. Once conceives and read building in terms of sequence.

Public spaces:

  Perceiving the urban environment and life, that is, the city is like looking at a play. As the beholder you get drawn into the action; the scene becomes part and parcel of your own experience. As the play and reality mingle, so do the scene and city’s life. As viewer you become drawn into the action; while the actor stands aside and becomes observers of reality. Even as spectator or bystander you cant avoid a part in the total play of city’s life. The urban open spaces of dominant visible activity exist in sequence-linked accents. periodic occurrence of accents in sequence rhythm. The disposition in a sequence has, of course, visible manifestation. Thus, accent in a sequence produce a modulation of visible intensity-varying degrees of richness of visual experience in a public place.

  The meaning of space is different because our perception and description of spatial relationship are different in different situations. Space in the urban environment is the area between buildings or the hollow inside a building, The overall image of a city as a place of vitality, opportunity and diversity depends on how lively and full of activity its public spaces are.

  The best loved public spaces are characterized by certain philosophical attitudes or value system, that seek to support the development of human life. They are not merely memorable because of their physical features but stand out in public memory as representatives as epitomes of type. Indeed, the most memorable public spaces are those in which the sense of being lost and yet safe co-exist.

  To achieve such a status, they court participation. This involves the ability of the people to add something to the place, individually or collectively. People stop to talk, or maybe they sit and watch, as passive participant. taking in what the place has to offer. Demonstration, are possible. There is magic to great public places. We are attracted to the best of them not because we have to be there, but because we want to. “The retail precinct, in particular has always been the hub of activity in the city.

  Using shopping as one of the essential  functions, the public space in the city has bought together diverse element and people of the city in close contact and create and support public life .

History of public spaces:

  The earliest form of human settlement was the village, where a cluster of huts was grouped around a central open space. Every community had a place of assembly where people gathered to discuss their common affairs, resolve disputes and celebrate festivals. A sacred tree or stone, a sacrificial altar or shrine, marked the space. This idea of community space passed into the cities that grew out of these settlements, assuming varied forms and more complex functions.

The agora of Athens is the most celebrated example, a democratic ideal for western historians and sociologists. The agora was at once a market place and a ground for political and intellectual debate. Agora fulfilled so many important urban functions that it became the most significant element of the city’s physical and social structure.

Like the church in medieval Europe, temples and mosques formed the focus of the communal life in Indian cities. The courtyard of the main mosque was one of the largest open congregational spaces in the urban fabric. The ‘bazaar’ street formed the main commercial spine. The ‘ghats’ (river banks) of Benaras, the ‘chowks’ (square) of Jaipur, have been the important public spaces for centuries. Many Islamic cities had grounds or maidans that were originally at the edge of the town, or even outside the city walls. They served as a parade ground and open air gathering spaces on feast days. Sometimes they were integrated into the main city and served as a foreground to a palace and a mosque. While the mosque, the maidan and the bazaars were primarily open public places of the city, they were not the sort of civic nucleus that characterized the cities of the west. Urban space was largely decentralized, there was no notion of a single core or ,cart, instead there was a hierarchy of open spaces.

The British brought to India the idea of urban spaces as places for recreation and leisure. The towns they built in the cool and beautiful hills were modeled on the idyllic English towns. The Shimla Mall was a pedestrian street, which had the town hall, the church, the cinema theatre, shops, hotels and restaurants. The mall and the ridge were very sociable places. for meeting, strolling and talking. Even Delhi, a city designed as a statement of imperial power and grandeur. with more ceremonial spaces than public ones.

The Transition:

  Joyful as it is utilitarian, entertaining and open to all, permitting at the same time  as individual recognition, symbolizing a community and its history and representing public memory. The definition of a public which id loosing it meaning today.

  In the light of new direction of development, the contemporary city is globalised, heterogeneous, cosmopolitan, and socially mobile to a level  unprecedented in the history. When compared to the pre industrial cities, the public realm in the modern city has lost its institutional structure.  The palace, the forts, temple, mosque and church, which formed the traditional city center have been replaced by the business districts where the size of speculative business block dwarfs the institutional buildings in the surroundings.  The civic institution no longer have the ability or the power to control the structure or the meaning of a public space.

  This corporate commercialization of the public realm is leading to a growing interiorisation of civic space. This trend is apparent in the west, and is beginning to emerge in India. The mall seeks to replace the bazaar, the atrium seeks to replace the public-street and square, and there is a growing presence of gated communities with an internalized public realm of restricted accessibility. The shopping mall, in particular, has emerged as the most visible architectural expression of this phenomenon.

  Rather than combine production. consumption, movement through the city, and social interaction, public spaces have grown more singular in their function. And as public space has transformed, so has private (pace and the relationship between the two. Space and time have lost their anchoring and securing attributes as they appear to grow increasingly scarce and tyrannical in the single minded pursuit of greater productivity.

  Historically, shopping was segregated according to the products. overtime it became more organized and organic. Stalls became markets, markets became streets and squares, streets and squares became arcades, arcades became gallerias, and gallerias became departmental stores and malls.

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