Monday, April 23, 2012

Watch This Space: Designing, Defending, and Sharing Public Spaces By Hadley Dyer

“You don’t have to buy something or pay an entry fee to be in a public space. You don’t need to be a member or explain why you’re there. Public spaces exist so everyone can use them. All you have to do is show up.”

In Watch This Space: Designing, Defending, and Sharing Public Space, Dyer examines different public spaces around the world and the features that make them effective. More specifically, she addresses how young people use and need public spaces. Key questions are explored, while various facts are shared. How do young people impact public spaces? How do they interact with others in public spaces? Who is allowed in public spaces? How do urban public spaces differ from suburban? And, how are communities affected by public space?

Although the book is only 80 pages, it is filled with loads of contemporary and historical information about the use, design, and issues regarding public spaces. The magazine style provides plenty of illustrations from acclaimed illustrator, Marc Ngui, as well as interesting side bars explaining the significance of various public spaces and why they should be protected. One example from the book is the laws in different countries that govern public spaces like Singapore, where the importing and sale of chewing gum is banned. The ban was implemented in the 1990s to prevent people from sticking gum under benches, on sidewalks, and the like.

There are a few interesting features…

Dyer challenges teens to take a look at the impact of advertisements in the community and virtual public spaces. She contends that advertisements can be intrusive when found in schools and other public spaces where children should be protected from distractions, like logos on T-Shirts. Honestly, decreasing covert advertisements in public spaces seem impossible; given that the space is free. This is definitely a topic for a lively discussion.

There are activities and references for further exploration and learning. For example, Dyer invites the reader to design a city green space by incorporating the desires and ideas of the community. 

Another interesting feature is that references to additional resources are provided. For example, the rise of North American suburbs is addressed. If a reader would like to know more, Dyer refers to Jane Jocobs’ work, Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Watch This Space urges readers, especially teens, to be mindful of the public spaces that they use and enjoy. This book is creatively crafted and worth perusing.

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