Bradley Garrett on privately owned public spaces (Pops)

Provocative piece by Bradley Garrett on privately owned public spaces, otherwise known as “Pops.” His intro reads in part:

Part of the problem, then, with privately owned public spaces (“Pops”) – open-air squares, gardens and parks that look public but are not – is that the rights of the citizens using them are severely hemmed in. Although this issue might be academic while we’re eating our lunch on a private park bench, the consequences of multiplying and expanding Pops affects everything from our personal psyche to our ability to protest.

His point is well exemplified in the (unusually thoughtful) comments by readers, one of whom asks:

Residential squares (open to the residents of the houses surrounding the square, but not to the general public) were a feature of London architecture up to the beginning of the 20th Century and still remain closed to the public in most cases. Why is the author of this article not attacking this practice, instead of the new privately-owned public spaces? As an American, is he even aware of their existence?

The reply from another reader makes the point very well:

Because the whole point of the article is that POPS are confusing: they look “public” but are in fact private. And you don’t know what you’re allowed or not allowed to do there. Probably nobody does, and security just make shit up on the spur of the moment.

In contrast, private residential squares are private, and look private, with fences and locked gates. You see one and know immediately that it’s a private space.

The author doesn’t need to attack private residential squares because there are relatively few of them. If every “public-looking” space became visibly enclosed, like a private square garden, everyone would be up in arms at the privatisation.

The author’s point is that this is in fact happening, but without the clear indicator of a fence. Instead of a fence, you get a security heavy who throws you out on a whim if you do anything “interesting”.

Personally I’m intrigued by this note about doing something “interesting,” or so to say attracting notice because of violating some codes (algorithms?) of behaviour. To me this has strong echoes of the calculative governance of space.

My question is, then: to what extent does this apply vertically? Given that Amazon wishes to deregulate (and presumably privatize) airspace below 200′ (currently regulated by the FAA) for drone flights at low speed, and a further zone 200-400′ high for faster drones, is this a similar “enclosure” or taking of public space?

Additionally, how high above your private property do your property rights reach? Read down this piece for some comments by lawyers.

Are we creating new divisions (hierarchies) of space?


One response to “Bradley Garrett on privately owned public spaces (Pops)

  1. Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:
    Jeremy Crampton links to a new piece by Bradley Garrett and asks some good questions about the vertical dimension.

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