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The empty place: democracy and public space

Hoskyns, T.; (2011) The empty place: democracy and public space. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

What is the role of physical public space in democracy? This thesis explores this question from different perspectives in theory – political philosophy and spatial theory – and through three participatory spatial practices – architectural, feminist and political democratic. The research questions whether increasingly representative democratic practice is appropriate for diverse and complex modern cities and examines the effects of representation and participation on public space, exploring possibilities for democratisation. As a theoretical basis, section 1 examines the rise of representative democracy and investigates contemporary theories for the future of democracy, focusing on the agonistic model advocated by Chantal Mouffe and the civil society model theorised by Jürgen Habermas. I argue that these models of participatory democracy can co-exist, are necessarily spatial and identify types of democratic space seen in ancient Athens, where the roles of the theatre (agon), the market place (agora) and the assembly formed a tri-partate model of democracy. Section 2 provides diverse perspectives on how the role of physical public space is articulated through three modes of participatory spatial practice. The first focuses on issues of participation in architectural practice through a set of projects exploring the ‘open spaces’ of a postwar housing estate in Euston. The second practice examines the role of space in the construction of democratic identity through the feminist architecture/art collective taking place, producing space through writing, performance and events. The third explores participatory political democratic practice through social forums at world, European and city levels. I discuss different conceptions of democracy practiced within the social forums, expressed in the discussion of the World Social Forum as a space or a movement. I conclude by arguing that participatory democracy requires a conception of public space as the empy place, which allows different models and practices of democracy to co-exist.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The empty place: democracy and public space
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Architecture

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