Personal Use of the Public Domain

Footway Planting, London

Occasionally we come across personal activities that have taken place in the public domain and work together to provide some local character.

Positive acts can extend the domain of personal responsibility so that people’s personal space becomes externalised, overlapping and the boundaries blurred to create a neighbourly atmosphere; a few small gestures can quickly combine to create a more delightful environment.

Unfortunately these sorts of acts (e.g. placing planters or seating on the footway, guerrilla gardening or wall art) are often discouraged or policed against leading to a lack of engagement with public space and leaving it to be managed by others. The result is often a prevailing dullness or encroachment of negative acts (vandalism, litter, graffiti).

Interesting and engaged neighbourhoods can be sustained by considering the interface of personal and managed responsibilities and by being generous with public space (both in terms of provision and its adoption by occupants) to allow for unplanned uses.