Privatisation of public land is a growing phenomenon in cities such as London. More and more communal spaces are being sold to public bodies or developers, resulting in them becoming the primary makers of modern cities. This transformation has been giving rise to privately owned public spaces (POPS), a term to describe spaces open to the public, formed from deals between the city and the developer in return for zoning concessions. The areas around King’s Cross current development is one of the 50 POPSs in Central London.
The term POPS has been demonised and attacked by various media for one major reason: POPS are owned by private entities. It was once the responsibility of local authorities to design and maintain public spaces for various needs of different users, but now the majority of new squares and parks have become the creation of developers.
Not bound by ordinary bylaws, these public spaces are under the development’s own set of rules. Thus, many have negative views on POPS due to concerns over access, freedom of movement and the lack of a city’s spontaneity. If POPS continue to increase, would public-public spaces still exist? London mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to review guidelines for POPS to ‘maximise access and minimise restrictions’ to help eliminate some of these worries, in London at least.
On the other hand, many believe that POPS are a fresh way of looking at the way spaces draw life and people in. As a prime example of this, the King’s Cross redevelopment delivered public spaces that incorporate art and landscaping in the regeneration of a widespread of abandoned industrial structures.
Government/state-owned public spaces have a tendency of being left vacant, but with the process of privatisation, developers have the opportunity to invest in these spaces to create new public spaces that can contribute socially and economically to the city and its people.
Designers are asked to study this particular interest using the site of the courtyard at Coal Drops Yard (CDY), London. Using the CDY as an example for the current POPS of London will give insight to POPS’s exploration potentials because it is relatively new. It is also one of the largest POPS and multi-purpose event spaces in London, which is unfortunately left vacant during weekdays.
Otto Ng - Co-founder & Design Director of LAAB Architects
David Miller - Director & Principal Architect of David Miller Architects
Dr Chris French - Co-founder & Director of Atelier for Architecture: at-018.studio & tutor at the University of Edinburgh
Dr Maria Mitsoula - Co-founder & Director of Atelier for Architecture: at-018.studio & tutor at the University of Edinburgh
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