Public and Private Space in Urban Areas: House, Neighborhood, and City

  • Eugenie L. Birch
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


From time immemorial, societies have fashioned informal and formal public and private spaces in their settlements. Public space is “a place accessible to all citizens, for their use and enjoyment” (Jackson, 1974). In contrast, a private place is open to those permitted by law or custom. As it becomes more clear in the following essay, the meaning of the words “accessible,” “use,” and “enjoyment” is very broad (Francis, 1989). The demarcation of public and private areas, although seemingly sharp is sometimes vague. In addition, different societies at various times in history have placed more or less attention on the creation and maintenance of public space. Public space is important to urban sociologists who recognize that it serves as a setting for community activities or public life, for example, parades, meetings, and informal gatherings. They also observe how it can be a magnet for community organization; for example, groups unite in designing, developing, maintaining, and protecting public spaces. And finally, they see that it can provide a unique identifiable reference that reinforces a sense of belonging to a community; for example, New Yorkers identify with Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue, and Central Park or Philadelphians resonate to Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Love Park, Fairmount Park, and the steps of the Museum of Art.


Community Organization Public Space Crime Prevention Community Garden Private Space 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eugenie L. Birch
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania

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