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public space, public city: do we want to be citizens or customers?

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Do we want to be citizens or customers?

By Matthew Knight
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Joseph Rykwert is one of the world's leading architectural historians. He is currently Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture Emeritus and Professor of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also authored several highly influential books including "The Idea of a Town" (1963) and "The Seduction of Place" (2000).

CNN spoke to Rykwert about how buildings and spaces act as a metaphor for society, our transition from citizens to customers and the challenges facing the built environment in the 21st century.

CNN: Do gated communities and the like have any historical precedent?
JR: Well, tyrants always build castles to keep themselves safe in but on the whole citizens didn't. There's always been the sense that the more public the space the more safe it is. We can't really pretend that the desire for safety is our invention. But the desire for cutting off areas of the city because the city is generally seen as unsafe is a late 20th century phenomenon.
CNN: Are mixed-use areas are key to a city's success?
JR: Mixed use is what cities are all about. If you don't have mixed use you don't have cities. In the 1960's local authorities [in London] believed that high rises were the answer to popular housing. Only in one or two cases were there attempts made to make high-density low-rise housing. The most remarkable example of this was the Brunswick Estate. It is two stepped blocks of housing with a commercial area in between. It's very high density and was abandoned for a while because of rather peculiar renting and commercial considerations. About four or five years ago it was revitalized and now it's buzzing.

Find this article: CNN, Design for Good,


  • edited 5:14AM
    The Brunswick Estate always was a fave. I lived nearby years ago and it contained my supermarket & the underground Renoir Cinema. I hear it is dead posh now, and it looks like they've painted it all white. I remember it being beautiful unpainted concrete.
    I through I was an anti-gate sort of person, I wrote a research report against gates once, but now I'm not so sure...
    The Housing Estate tenants in Carlton, Melbourne recently complained about media portrayals of the place as crime-ridden and criminal-ridden. They suggested that the problem was open access to the estate and people that didn't live there cutting through it, and not respecting it. I can understand this, my own housing complex nearby put security fences up two years ago after the body corp had had enough of finding all kinds of unimaginables in the bin hide...
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