A Future Of Corporate Privately Owned Public Spaces

forming part of “a dual city and a dual nation, diverse urban worlds existing side by side in the same geographical space” (Bremner 2016 PAGE, cf).


Can corporate POPSs in African financial centres become reimagined as welcoming shared spaces?


In a climate of urban insecurity, Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) in African financial centres reside at the threshold where the ‘fortress city’ and the ‘survival city’ meet. Colonialism and apartheid denied both common rights and rights to the commons Public life was confined to spaces which could be controlled and policed on the state’s terms. Yet, urbanists have not generally questioned the assumption that public space serves to engender social cohesion, inclusivity, and civic culture. In the post-colonial/apartheid African city, crime, dilapidation and appropriation of public space by the ‘survival city’ means that few spaces are truly public. Those with means have withdrawn into the interiority of the private realm whilst public space is increasingly abandoned, left in a state of anomie, or subjected to non-state forms of securitisation or governance. Building more robust and welcoming interfaces between public and private space is therefore a priority. Research from non-African contexts suggests that POPS can become well-used amenities for the city, enhance the quality of the workspace for employees, act as foyers for their corporate owners, add value to real estate, and/or be central to sustainable urban regeneration efforts. However, research is needed to identify how POPS can better respond to the everyday realities and needs of African cities.

Opponents of enclosure, accuse POPS of producing exclusive elitist spaces which exacerbate urban fragmentation and marginalise the shifting urban other. However, research conducted in other contexts suggests that POPS have not displaced the inquisitiveness, enchantment and regard for others nostalgically reserved for public space. Studies on POPS in urban Africa have focused on four types: the gated community, the shopping mall, the casino, and the ‘new urbanist mixed-use’ enclave. Corporate POPS have yet to receive due critical attention. To address this gap, the proposed qualitative research will be undertaken at three case-study sites, to explore if and how the design of African urban corporate POPS does or can encourage positive encounter and foster a sense of welcome.

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Research Lead: Dr. Britt Baillie

Margeaux Adams

Julia Carew

Mikara Naidoo