Exploring the Public Realm: Understanding Multiple Ways of Publicness in Urban America
This research undertakes a critical study of public places, the public realm of any society, in the American urban context. This investigation examines a group of public places in four college towns: Ann Arbor, Michigan; Athens, Georgia; Lansing-East Lansing, Michigan; and Tallahassee, Florida. The study explores different ways in which public places are understood, various processes by which public places are used, and multiple forms in which public places are manifested.
(1) A multiple sorting task coupled with open-ended interviews is applied to investigate the nature and organization of people’s conceptual constructs related to publicness. (2) Observation of people’s activities is undertaken in exemplary public places (four per case study) to reveal how people, individually and in groups, appropriate these spaces. (3) The study also analyzes the historic morphological evolution of public places in the college towns using space syntax methods. This integrative model is replicated in the four case-study college towns