Take back the city?

The American dream prescribes we strive to purchase our very own piece of land. With the white picket fence and the backyard for our kids and pets to play. But in urban settings where most inhabitants live in apartments and condos, where do they get their dose of fresh air? From the public parks. And the public plazas.

The days of public plazas and public parks are long gone though. Private companies with corporate accounts hold land “in the best interest of the public”. As an Orange County native, I know this too well from The Irvine Company, a company that manages what used to be the James Irvine’s ranch. Today his ranch spans the city of Irvine and parts of Newport Beach. What does this mean for Orange County suburbia? Shopping plazas, parks, gated communities all under the jurisdiction of the Irvine Company.

Somewhere I’ve heard of governments that can’t fund public works, and the benevolent publicly-owned organizations that take up land to care for it. But the Irvine Company is definitely privately-owned. Some would praise the Irvine Company for their superb urban planning. I have some doubts.

Public space is one of those poetic ideas that most people are willing to give up because it hearkens a bygone era when people shopped in open-air markets and gathered in the public square for civic functions.

In this day of big box stores and retail chains, didn’t we expect our land to go down the same route? Well, maybe not everyone. Robin Howe’s “A Dialogue with Public Space,” is a series of photographs taken in London that makes up one half of a book that provides us with some food for thought about those city spaces we inhabit everyday.
You can check it out at:

Robin Howe- click here!

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