Monday, November 08, 2010

Privatising public space

click photo to enlarge
The insidious spread of private space into what was formerly, or should be, public space continues. Whether it be shopping malls, new developer-created streets, gated communities, or public-private partnerships that trade space for council-owned facilities, the result is the same: areas that would, in the past, have been publicly owned and would have offered unfettered access to everyone, are now often places in which we have restricted rights, and what we can or cannot do is limited in order that the owners can sell more effectively to the public or to their tenants. So, watch out if you're taking photographs, collecting for charity, skateboarding, or doing anything that offends the delicate sensibilities of the owners or their private security guards: if they don't like it they have the power to tell you to "clear off".

On a recent visit to London it was pointed out to me that one of the largest redevelopments of the river front is privately owned. The area upstream of Tower Bridge on the South Bank, a location that has a riverside path, green space, benches, multiple office blocks, open-air amphitheatre and is known by the ridiculous name of "More London" is not the public space that it seems to be. If one looks carefully you can see discreet metal plates fixed to walls that proclaim its private status. This is all the more remarkable because the space includes the new City Hall from where the London Assembly governs the metropolis. One of the architectural features of this Norman Foster-designed building is its openness, designed to bring transparency to the democratic process. Yet it is located in a privately owned part of the city. As they say in the United States - "go figure".

All that being so, I did wonder whether I might be stopped as I pointed my new camera at the orange coloured acers in front of the offices with their blue-tinted glass. However, anyone trying to restrict my photography would, in fairness, have to do the same with the thousands of tourists snapping away at Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, the city skyline and the "Glass Gonad" itself, so I felt fairly safe.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 27mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On