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From masterplans to daily actions: London public spaces as designed, reconfigured and used

Wall, Ed (2017) From masterplans to daily actions: London public spaces as designed, reconfigured and used. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004416


In this thesis I investigate three London sites – Elephant and Castle Market, Paddington Basin and Trafalgar Square – where public spaces have been subject to contrasting masterplanned developments, management operations and daily uses. Focusing on the timeframes of the masterplans I explore a range of accounts of public spaces to reveal how differing economic opportunities, scheduled events and everyday activities are afforded, negotiated or reduced as these locations are transformed. I employ observation, interviews, document surveys and visual analysis to understand competing ambitions for engaging with public spaces, from conflicts between urban planners and low-cost businesses, to negotiations between international property developers and local governments. I show how this combination of methods has enabled me to frame concepts of public spaces: planned and managed as spatial forms; photographed as, and designed, with visual images; and, occupied and used through social interactions. The research into these physical and social geographies of large-scale masterplanning intersects scales of public spaces: from men playing checkers on makeshift tables in Elephant and Castle Market to the application of national planning policy at Paddington Basin and the engagement with global competition between cities through the remaking of Trafalgar Square. I analyse how uncertainty caused by large-scale spatial strategies, the realisation of visual priorities and unbalanced relations between private interests and public organisations compromise the public nature of space. I demonstrate that, as these sites are spatially reconfigured, rules are rewritten to control access and use. I explore how, as planners, landowners and architects facilitate and produce public spaces as architectural forms and pictorial settings, they employ new regulations that further undermine daily lived and used public spaces. I conclude by reflecting on the spatial and regulatory terms imposed on public spaces to propose a design code that might establish more inclusive opportunities and transparent relations in the future making of public spaces in London.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Ed Wall
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD100 Land Use
Sets: Research centres and groups > Cities Programme
Supervisor: Tonkiss, Fran and Hall, Suzanne

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