Civic Spaces

The role of public space in the development and nurturing of the civic culture is at the core of my research interests. Polis is my latest research project looking at the civic potential of urban landscapes with a view to re-engaging young people with Europe’s public spaces in an age of mediated reality.

For the first stage of this project I’m focusing on Athens, Greece as a case study. I am currently conducting interviews with architects, urban planning experts and community leaders in order to explore the challenges and opportunities facing Athens’ public spaces and the conditions under which architecture and the media can make an impact on the civic culture. This page will feature notes and vignettes from this part of my research.

<page under development – more to come>

Susan Jacoby on Libraries and Civic Culture

“In large cities, not only neighborhood libraries but central research libraries – the nucleus of what would become some of the greatest research collections in the world – were open to anyone with a library card. When the grand Forty-second Street headquarters of the New York Public Library opened its doors to the public for the first time on May 24, 1911, some fifty thousand New Yorkers passed through the Fifth Avenue entrance – guarded by stone lions that would soon become famous civic landmarks – to view the marvels within. The first book delivered to a reader was a Russian-language volume of philosophy, attesting to the evolution of a civic culture in which ordinary citizens were gaining access to cultural and intellectual resources previously locked away from all but the wealthiest, most privileged members of society“. [Susan Jacoby (2008), The Age of American Unreason, New York: Random House, pp. 64-65]

The New York Public Library, Jefferson Market Branch. Photo: RG, June 2011.