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Abstract

Urban public space in a Western context has become increasingly functionalised and pre-determined. Designations for use and by who, have become more prolific and have introduced formalised codes of accepted behaviour. This represents a barrier to the appropriation of public space by citizens, particularly when it comes to less conventional cultural practices. This in turn becomes a barrier for both inclusion and how space is defined and conceptualised. This is problematic in a notion of public space as the space of exchange and meeting place of ‘the other,’ and as an essential part of building an inclusive, tolerant and stimulating urbanity. In this regard, architecture, design and urban planning are neither innocent nor neutral agents in the process of conceptualising, interpreting and materialising space. Design has the capacity to foster uniformity and unambiguity or to invite plurality and ambivalence. Activating the physical practice of parkour, this chapter takes its point of departure in alternative urban practices to discuss the role of architecture, urban design and planning in materialising space between segregation and intolerance on the one hand and inclusion and curiosity on the other and the degree to which space is appropriated as place. Focussing on material details for jumping and climbing, as well as the overall spatial structure for trajectory, parkour emphasises the background and the foreground, while architectural urban space focuses on the middle ground. This chapter examines this potential and its implications for an urban architectural practice aiming for plurality and ambivalence, rather than uniformity and unambiguity. Further, in the context of this publication which intends a more permanent record of the dialogues and interweavings created by the papers presented at the 4th Global Conference on Time, Space and the Body in 2014, this chapter will draw out some of the points that demarcate potential meetings with the other chapters in this section.

In: Intervening Spaces

Public space in a Western context has become increasingly functionalised and predetermined. Designations dictating use and user have become more prolific –often in the name of practicality or safety – and have introduced formalised codes of accepted behaviour. This represents a barrier to the appropriation of public space by citizens, particularly regarding less conventional cultural practices –and this in turn becomes a barrier for inclusion and for how we define and conceptualise space itself. This is problematic in a notion of public space as the space of exchange and the place of ‘the other’, as discussed by Lofland, Hajer and Reijndorp, Zukin and Lefebvre, among others, and as an essential part of building an inclusive, tolerant and stimulating urbanity. In this regard, architecture and design are not innocent or neutral agents in the process of conceptualising, interpreting and materialising space. Design has the capacity to foster uniformity and unambiguity, or to invite plurality and ambivalence. Using the practice of parkour – a physical activity and means of moving through space – as a vehicle for thought and exemplification, this chapter takes its point of departure in alternative urban practices to discuss the role of architecture and design in materialising space, between segregation and intolerance on the one hand, and inclusion and curiosity on the other. Although the design approach may vary, it ultimately plays a large role in determining the scope of inclusion offered and the degree to which space is appropriated as place. In its focus on the material details of urban space for jumping and climbing, as well as the overall structure of space for its trajectory, parkour emphasises the background and the foreground. Architectural urban space design focuses, on the contrary, on the middle ground. This chapter examines the potential in this and its implications for an urban architectural practice aiming for plurality and ambivalence, rather than uniformity and unambiguity.

In: Time, Space and the Human Body: An Interdisciplinary Look