Public Space Design Between Alienation and Approporiation: The Case of Parkour

Shelley Smith, Nicolai Steinø

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Urban public space in a Western context has become increasingly functionalized and pre-determined. Designations for use, and by whom, have become more prolific – often in the name of practicality or safety – and have introduced more or less formalized codes of accepted behaviour. This represents a barrier to the appropriation of public space by citizens, in particular when it comes to less conventional and new cultural practices – and this in turn becomes a barrier for both inclusion and for how we define and conceptualize space itself. This is problematic in a notion of public space as the space of exchange and the meeting place of ‘the other’, as discussed by Lofland, Hajer & Reijndorp, Zukin and Lefebvre, among others, and as an essential part of building an inclusive, tolerant and stimulating urbanity. In this regard, architecture and design are not innocent or neutral agents in the process of conceptualizing, interpreting and materializing space. On the contrary, design has the capacity to foster uniformity and unambiguity, or to invite plurality and ambivalence. Using the practice of parkour as a vehicle for thought and exemplification, this paper takes its point of departure in alternative urban practices for a discussion of the role of architecture and design in materializing space, between segregation and intolerance on the one hand, and inclusion and curiosity on the other. While the design approach adopted may vary, it ultimately plays a large role in determining the scope of inclusion offered in a particular space and the degree to which space is appropriated as place. In its focus on the material details of urban space for jumping and climbing, as well as the overall structure of space for its trajectory, parkour emphasizes the background and the foreground. Architectural urban space design on the contrary, focuses on the middle ground. This paper examines the potential in this seeming conflict and its implications for an urban architectural practice aiming for plurality and ambivalence, rather than uniformity and unambiguity.
TitelTime, Space and the Body 4
Antal sider11
ForlagInter-Disciplinary Press
ISBN (Elektronisk)ISBN: 978-1-84888-492-2
StatusUdgivet - 2015
BegivenhedTime, Space & Body: The Time, Space + Body Project: 5th Global Meeting - Mansfield College, Oxford, Storbritannien
Varighed: 30 aug. 20151 sep. 2015


KonferenceTime, Space & Body
LokationMansfield College


  • Det offentlige rum, parkour, appropriation, alienation, rum, sted, urbanism, arkitektur, pluralitet, ambivalens


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