Town Planning Review

Property rights, public space and urban design

Town Planning Review (2007), 78, (1), 81–101.

Abstract

This paper addresses the problem of balancing the supply of public urban space with demand. It is, in that sense, a paper on the economics of the public realm. It is written with urban planners and designers in mind and offers a set of analytical tools for thinking about the dynamics of open space, explaining the evolution of urban morphologies and predicting the outcome of urban designs. It considers the way in which shared and private spaces develop public domain problems and the way in which these are resolved by the clarification of property rights. Urban open space emerges from this analysis as a residual category of land and this has implications for the way open space is both designed and governed. It leads to the idea that the hierarchy of shared spaces in a city should correspond to a hierarchy of governing institutions. Physical and institutional design are both important in creating sustainable public realms and avoiding what the paper terms the tragedy of the urban commons.

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Author details

Webster, Chris