Trade-offs in “capital public spaces”

A piece in The Economist pitches New York against London in terms of progress on “bettering” public spaces.  More usefully, it provides an overview of some of the key dynamics shaping today’s “capital public spaces” as well as people’s relationships with them, i.e.:

  • continued pedestrianisation and trading off visitor (tourist) interests against the interests of car-dependent or business-owning locals;
  • the insidious privatisation of public space;
  • place-making changes shaped by commercial motives, not community needs and sentiments;
  • the forces of power and control shaping public space.

Decent public space became an economic necessity.

For the washed, who quite like shopping and safety, such space is a great deal better than nothing.

The problem comes down to governance. While New York’s mayor is all-powerful, London’s shares power with 32 boroughs, which often have conflicting agendas.


Going unseen places

One of the highlights of last week’s World Responsible Tourism program for me was finding out about Unseen Tours (London’s Street Voices), which received a hefty whack of recognition by winning Best Tour Operator for Local Experiences and Joint Overall Winner at the Responsible Tourism Awards 2011 (the latter shared with Robin Pope Safaris).

Here’s the proposition.  If you “want to challenge your view of what it means to be a person living in London”  then Unseen Tours offers “historical but also unexplored glimpses of the city, as perceived through the lens of homelessness”:

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