UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of the complexity of downtown public space Monadizadeh, Behrouz


The public space of the contemporary downtown is a complex and controversial phenomenon. In the past the territory of the public and that of the private were sharply defined by the property lines dividing the landscape into the city blocks and the network of the streets. Such clear-cut divisions between the public and private spaces of downtown are not valid anymore; neither are the political, financial and legal issues related to their ownership, development, maintenance and use. By typology and physical spread the public space of downtown has developed far beyond the street, into the office plazas and atria, and indoor spaces of the shopping malls and mixed-use downtown centers. These new types are dubious creations as they are developed by the private funds but are intended to be used by the public. Therefore the public space of the contemporary downtown is a controversial conception whereas its use is conditioned by the interests of the private developers and proprietors, which tend to prefer the wealthy and privileged consumers. The increasing diversity and complexity, as well as the contested state of the contemporary downtown public space demands renewing our conceptions of it. This thesis is an attempt in that direction. The present work is a combination of two separate pieces of research on the theme of downtown public space. The first research, as covered in chapters one and two, is a broad investigation. It is a study of the main types of public space that constitute the public realm of the North American downtown, and a study of the downtown realm in its entirety. Therefore, it is a correlated study of the parts and the whole. The objective of this broad investigation is to understand the complexity of downtown public space. This knowledge will inform planning and urban design to make decisions and conduct the course of change and development in the downtown environment in a more insightful manner. The second research, as covered in chapter three, is a focused analysis of the parameters that need to be considered in the evaluation and/or design of urban open space as a particular type of public space. The proposed criteria is used for the evaluation of two cases of public space in downtown Vancouver.

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