The Future Cities Salon

De-Sanitizing the City: What is Public Space?

From Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge to Vinoly’s Walkie Talkie “Sky Garden” the right to public access has become a fashionable concern. Many people point to Westfield Shopping Centre and plans for Southbank skatepark as signalling the commodification of public space and an end to the historic freedoms of the agora and the piazza. But what does defending “the public square” actually mean? Some advocate for the “public good” and an emphasis on the social value, but who determines what these values are? Is common consent the same as democratic legitimacy? 

This debate will assess whether public space refers to places where we have the right to do anything we want, and whether common access = good public space? But we will also focus on whether we can reinvent an egalitarian city through rethinking civil engagement in the public arena.


Anna Minton, author, Ground Control; visiting professor, University of East London

Deborah Saunt, Founder, award-winning architectural studio, DSDHA

Jack Self, Reviews Editor, Architectural Review

Claire Mookerjee, Project Manager, Future Cities Catapult; previously Design Researcher, Gehl Architects

Alastair Donald, Project Director, British Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale

Chair: Michael Owens, Commercial Director, Bow Arts Trust; owner of London Urban Visits

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