Overlapping and Intersecting Spaces

Overlapping and Intersecting Spaces

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Architecture can and does overlap and intersect in a huge number of ways and fashions. This can be a physical overlap, which can occur at a variety of scales, but perhaps more intersting are overlaps of a different nature. Take, for example, the idea of 'public' and 'private' space. As the trend of urbanisation continues and our urban areas grow in scale and density, the issue of what is 'public' and 'private' and how these spaces do overlap and intersect becomes ever more complex and important. Public space is a modern day 'fad' of the planning system, an integral part of any large-scale urban project. But, what exactly is 'public' space and is the creation of 'public' space actually acheivable? Going one step further, is it really better to design 'public' as opposed to 'private' space?

Public and Private

At the beginning of an urban design project, many techniques are available to analyse the context. One such technique, popular amongst architects is that of the figure-ground. While this technique is undoubtedly useful in analysing the 'urban grain', it became clear that this tool was inadequate for the type of spaces we wanted to describe. The figure ground depicts public and private as discrete entities, one or the other, black or white. With the complex relationship of OWNERSHIP now present in the present day metropolis, this form of analysing public and private is inappropriate. An alternative, more sensitive and fluid form of analysis is in fact needed - one which can, as mentioned, determine how we as users of the city take ownership of space. An investigation into public and private brought to the fore this issue of ownership – revealing that ownership is not as simple as public and private, but in fact the result of a myriad causes.

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Measuring Ownership

The diagram below begins to explore the different ways in which ownership can be stated on a space. A scale is then applied to a selection of these 'ownership types', providing a measurement of the public and private nature of a space.

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Application of 'Mapping' Technique

In an effort to test out this technique as a method to 'measure' ownership, an area around the base of the Arts Tower in Sheffield was studied. The diagrams below illustrate each of the 'ownership' types surveyed. The ability to analyse the space between public/private has proved important, for understanding these spaces allows us to comprehend how and why people come together and gives clues as to those factors that facilitate interaction between people in a positive way and what aspects of space are required to form a community.

Map of Legislation

Legislation was considered in terms of the barriers of red-tape that would need to be navigated in order to undertake a ‘project’. Around the Arts Tower concourse, the level of legislation is fairly uniform, with marginally tighter levels of regulation occurring within some of the buildings, reflecting issues such as ‘listed building’ consent that would perhaps need to be sought. The concourse itself is perceived as relatively ‘public’, with evidence of people using the space for personal activity, for example, skateboarding and advertising.

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Map of Access

Access measured the opportunity for access to spaces. Access is restricted by boundaries, walls, gates and doors and restriction therefore tends to be greatest inside the buildings. On the concourse, there is some restriction for car users, bollards and barriers, making the space largely pedestrian friendly – indicated by the level of pedestrian through the car park.

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Map of Obstruction

There is quite a lot of signage and physical obstruction in the area surveyed, particularly at its boundaries. Signage is an attempt to control activity and demarcate space. The success of this demarcation is reinforced through porters and wardens and use of the space is fairly restricted to particular zones.

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Map of use

The main uses of the spaces surveyed are transitory activities, for example walking through or driving past. These occur within the boundaries defined by signage and physical layout. Main pedestrian activity happens in the designated path and car activity on the road. Some other activity happens, such as skateboarding occurs on the slope behind the Alfred Denny Building.

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Map of Occupation

There is very little sustained occupation of the space, except for car parking occupation during the day. There is some gathering outside the Arts Tower by smokers or people sitting in the bench.

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Map of Surveillance

Again fairly uniform, over looked by buildings and the road. The slope at the back of the Alfred Denny Building has little surveillance, suggesting why it is perhaps the locality for skateboarding.

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Complete ‘Ownership’ Map

The final diagram describes the complete picture of ownership in the area surveyed, revealing a complex relationship between different types of ownership. The 'dense' areas suggest those spaces that are subjected to considerable ownership claims, whereas the 'light' zones denote localities where ownership is less apparent. It is these zones in which it is noticeable that a greater level of illegal or subversive behaviour occurs, be it graffiti, bicycle theft or skateboarding.

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