The blurring of boundaries between private and public

A city of one’s own (2008) addresses the distinction between what is private and what is public.

The subtitle of the book is: “Blurring the boundaries between private and public.”

Chapter 5, by Renaud Le Goix of the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, is entitled  “Gated communities: Generic patterns in suburban landscapes?”

The chapter argues that “gated enclaves should not be understood only as a radical and recent change in urban landscapes, nor as a simplistic sign of the militarization of society.”

“They are indeed,” the author notes, “a profound expression of classical patterms in the production of urban spaces and suburban landscapes.

“The diffusion of gated communities depends on a local path dependency towards gated patterns, either because enclosures have been traditional features, or because laws and regulations indeed favour this kind of a residential scheme.”

Jane Jacobs revisited?

Among my favourite books about Jane Jacobs is Reconsidering Janes Jacobs (2011).

The latter book places Jacob’s work – both its strong contributions and its less robust features – into a contemporary context. It also describes her development as a writer.

The title for the concluding chapter in A city of one’s own (2008) is “Jane Jacobs revisited?”

The chapter notes that “Jacob’s bottom up approach, ahead of her time, carried a vigorous denunciation of what she called ‘orthodox’ city-planning in the twentieth century. ”

For Jacobs, the prevailing ideas that she opposed “amounted to imposing a ready-made, one-size-fits-all project to cities, overlooking their inherent complexity and singularity, and essentially solving the city’s problems by getting rid of many of the elements that precisely make a city a city.”

The authors speak as well of Jacobs’ desire “to leave aside top down, bureaucratic, abstract, and centralized projects and decisions in favour of better informed, locally-sensitive approaches.”

Jacobs is characterized, as well, as advocating a shift of focus “from the planners, or more generally from the political and economic elites, to a wider range of actors.”

The concluding chapter notes that a sensitivity to the urban fabric has predated the twentieth-century bureaucratic and top down models of urban planning. The latter period, the authors suggest, “should now be viewed as situated in a bounded historic period, ranging roughly from 1900 to the 1970s.”


An April 28, 2016 Walrus article is entitled: “Neighbourhood Watch: How social networks lead to racial profiling. Welcome to Canada’s new virtual gated communities.”

A June 2016 Atlantic article is entitled: The Destructive Legacy of Housing Segregation: Less visible than the rise of income inequality in America is its impact in shaping the country’s urban neighborhoods. Two books – by Matthew Desmond and Mitchell Duneier – could help change that.”

A June 15, 2016 Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy article is entitled: “China issues demolition order on world’s largest religious town in Tibet.”

A June 24, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Beijing has fallen: China’s capital sinking by 11cm a year, satellite study warns.”

A Nov. 12, 2016 Globe and Mail article by Doug Saunders, entitled “Whitewashed,” features an American interview subject  who lives in a gated community: “Although her neighbourhood, which is gated and predominantly white, does not see much crime, her family had armed up, accumulating more firearms to protect itself.”


1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    A Nov 29, 2016 Pacific Standard article is entitled: “One Last Thing: Hostile Architecture: Yesterday’s public-safety measure has become today’s assault on the underclass.”


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