International Journal of Art & Design Education

After the Public Realm: Spaces of Representation, Transition and Plurality

Volume 19.3   2000



This essay questions the privileging of the design of public over domestic spaces and buildings in architecture and urban design, and their education, and the identification of public space with a public realm seen as the location of democracy. It cites the case made by Doreen Massey that the division of public and private realms is gendered, allowing men the freedom of public affairs whilst confining women to domesticity; and argues that a dualism of public and private space ignores a third area of transitional spaces which affect patterns of urban sociation. The case of redevelopment in El Raval, Barcelona, demonstrates that public space may be, today, part of an anti-democratic strategy of gentrification. But, if public space constructs a gendered public realm as imposition, there remains, as Hannah Arendt contends, a need for locations of social mixing in which difference is visible. What, if not public space, enables this?