Introducing gender to the critique of privatized public space

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Urban design scholars denounce the recent trend towards the privatization of US public space. Critics emphasize the negative consequences of privatized public space, tied to private ownership, an emphasis on consumption, leisure and security, a targeted audience, and controlled behaviour and design. Yet these key qualities of privatized public spaces have meaning only in the context of one's identity. The same qualities shape experiences of privatized public spaces that can be understood as constrained, as constraining or as a form of resistance, depending on one's gender, race, class and sexuality. This paper challenges the prevailing design critique by examining women's experience of privatized public spaces, drawing on interviews with 43 middle-class women and behavioural mapping in five privatized public spaces in Orange County, California. Recommendations address changes to research and practice to better reflect and accommodate diverse experiences of public space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-178
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Urban Design
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies


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