Public Space Design between Alienation and Appropriation: The Case of Parkour in Intervening Spaces

Shelley Smith, Nicolai Steinø

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Urban public space in a Western context has become increasingly functionalised and pre-determined. Designations for use and by who, have become more prolific and have introduced formalised codes of accepted behaviour. This represents a barrier to the appropriation of public space by citizens, particularly when it comes to less conventional cultural practices. This in turn becomes a barrier for both inclusion and how space is defined and conceptualised. This is problematic in a notion of public space as the space of exchange and meeting place of ‘the other,’ and as an essential part of building an inclusive, tolerant and stimulating urbanity. In this regard, architecture, design and urban planning are neither innocent nor neutral agents in the process of conceptualising, interpreting and materialising space. Design has the capacity to foster uniformity and unambiguity or to invite plurality and ambivalence. Activating the physical practice of parkour, this chapter takes its point of departure in alternative urban practices to discuss the role of architecture, urban design and planning in materialising space between segregation and intolerance on the one hand and inclusion and curiosity on the other and the degree to which space is appropriated as place. Focussing on material details for jumping and climbing, as well as the overall spatial structure for trajectory, parkour emphasises the background and the foreground, while architectural urban space focuses on the middle ground. This chapter examines this potential and its implications for an urban architectural practice aiming for plurality and ambivalence, rather than uniformity and unambiguity. Further, in the context of this publication which intends a more permanent record of the dialogues and interweavings created by the papers presented at the 4th Global Conference on Time, Space and the Body in 2014, this chapter will draw out some of the points that demarcate potential meetings with the other chapters in this section.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntervening Spaces : Respatialisation and the Body
EditorsNycole Prowse
Number of pages18
Place of PublicationLeiden, Nederlands
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-36552-0
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-36552-0
Publication statusPublished - 2018
SeriesAt the Interface / Probing the Boundaries


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