Last night’s debate at the Flux Factory audited the city’s past incentive schemes for well-designed public spaces throughout New York. The discussion highlighted the absence of a set of criteria for defining the success of these places, or evaluating how existing spaces could improve.
Midtown Manhattan is an oft cited example of an area littered with ambiguously successful public spaces. These privately-owned Public Spaces, deemed POPS over the years, are a direct result of a 1961 zoning resolution allowing developers to build taller buildings in exchange for the provision of publicly accessible space within their property lines. William Holly Whyte’s documentary The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is perhaps the most entertaining evaluation of these spaces. Charles-Antoine Perrault’s photos of the spaces, shown below, visually critique the contemporary state of these POPS. While developers were incentivized to build them, they were not held to design standards or maintenance requirements. Shot in the bleak mid-winter, Perrault’s photos suggest that perhaps public spaces fail when people are an afterthought in the design process.
Charles-Antoine Perrault is currently a GIS specialist at Situ Studio in DUMBO.