Throughout history, public spaces have played a pivotal role in bringing societies together and offering individuals and groups somewhere to interact, relax and express themselves. However, since the 1980s, the growth of privately-owned public spaces (POPS) has created a substantial paradigm shift in how spaces are provided and used. This dissertation investigates how design is being used in POPS to influence user experience and whether these influences are of a positive or negative nature. Existing literature has been reviewed to explore why public spaces are important, the design principles used in the creation of spaces and the controversies surrounding privately-owned public spaces.
A combination of primary and secondary research was carried out in order to answer the research question. Autoethnographic studies carried out at key POPS and additional locations found that private owners use design in six key areas to influence user experience that collectively attract and deter certain users and behaviours. Publicness surveys conducted at the same locations found that physical and visual elements of POPS appear more private compared to publiclyowned examples, demonstrating that difference in ownership has a consequent impact on the form and provision of space.
This dissertation concludes that while private entities greatly improve and create spaces that provide employment and commerce, implications of the profit motive can lead to negative user experiences and less social engagement which contradicts the public space ideal.
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