Trouble in the garden: exploring the ambivalence of public space and private property.
Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London
Abstract or Description
This thesis explores questions posed by the production of informal spaces in relation to space produced by the state. What kind of practices produce informal space, and to what extent do informal spaces either subvert or reinforce the order of private property? What is at stake in this thesis is the tension between the production of social space – that is, shared public space or space for society as a whole – on the one hand, and the tendencies and desires of individuals or small groups of spatial users to appropriate and produce their own space, on the other. In this research project, space is understood as the form through which questions of freedom, free will, and self-determination become culturally and politically manifest. This thesis analyses examples of spatial production such as Osman Kalin’s informal garden in Kreuzberg, Berlin, and the French social utopian new town Villeneuve, located in the suburbs of Grenoble. It explores stories, histories, and material forms of construction, building regulations and codes from these sites. This thesis analyses notions of freedom and free will which on the political left, are often said to exist when citizens forsake a degree of individualism for the good of the greater social whole, and on the political right, are said to be expressed through an individual’s right to fulfil his or her individual needs and desires. In the central case study of this thesis, I look at what happens when Osman Kalin appropriates a triangular plot of land in the centre of Berlin for his garden and hut. This act can be read as subversion, an appropriation of bureaucratised, state-capitalist urban space. However, Kalin’s actions, borne of a desire to produce a space based on his own needs, have serious implications for the production of shared social space. This thesis explores the contradictions that emerge through such acts of appropriation, and how they might mirror early forms of private property production. It looks at how spaces such as Kalin’s question the boundaries between private property and public space, and how other examples of collective appropriation might differ not only from Kalin’s actions but also from the top-down, state-produced utopian social projects of the 1960s and 70s in France. It goes on to explore notions of the commons, and discusses two informal collective spaces in order to question how the use and distribution of space is defined, as well as how claims and counter claims are managed when the state’s regulatory role is absent.
Certain images in this thesis have been redacted due to copyright restrictions
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