The Democratization of Public Space: Insurgent or Institutional Occupation of Puerta del Sol in Madrid?

By Maria Beltran and Mayka Garcia-Hipola.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Abstract: Demonstrations in public squares all around the world have, since 2011, highlighted opportunities and challenges for public space both socially and spatially. In Madrid, Spain, the temporary occupation of Puerta del Sol’s square provided that location with a new symbolic meaning. Recently, Madrid’s administrations and corporations have launched a competition. Under the pretext of adding benches and trees to the historic paved square, there may be an explicit attempt of transforming Sol into what Sharon Zukin calls a “place of consumption,” reverting Sol’s meaning as a symbol of democracy. While most cities are transforming their squares and parks into controlled and restricted places, this research questions their true level of democracy. In an analysis of Puerta del Sol’s recent events, this paper argues that planning and design professionals, public processes, and policies tended to privilege those in power. The paper shows how public spaces today should deal with the ambivalence of being both a place for enacting (institutional) and a place for action (insurgent). This may lead towards less rigid and regulated design principles and more inclusive, democratic, and flexible public processes of decision-making.

Keywords: Occupation of Public Space, Institutional Space, Insurgent Space

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Volume 10, Issue 1, March 2015, pp.1-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.006MB).

Maria Beltran

PhD. Fellow, Instructor in the Architecture School, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, University of Maryland, Washington D.C., USA

Mayka Garcia-Hipola

Associate Professor, Theory and Design in Architecture and Urbanism DTPAU, Universidad San Pablo CEU, Madrid, Spain