top of page

Urban space and power: part 3

Private spaces

Image credit to Brice Coutagne

The first and inviolable territory of the self is constituted, in the modern western states, by private property, which stands like a castle with respect to the invasions and intrusions of others and of the State.

However, even starting from the analysis of a domestic house, there are different areas more dedicated to exclusive control and more inaccessible to both the rest of the family and the guests (like the bedrooms) than to others where the control is partial, depending more from social situations and different times of the day (like the dining room).

The same process of transformation of the modern home through the separation of rooms with specific functions with respect to premodern situations of greater functional promiscuity is interpreted as a decisive element for the construction of the personality of the modern citizen, the growth of one's sense of self and the construction of one's authentic personality and identity.

Even outside the home it is possible to recognize spaces more or less under personal control, more or less private or semi-public spaces, in this sense controlled or occupied more or less temporarily by someone.

Altman effectively distinguishes three main types of territories, based on the centrality of the territory for the life of the person and the social group and the duration of the time spent: the primary territories, the secondary territories and the public territories.

The primary territories are those owned and used exclusively by people and social groups, are clearly identified as such by others, are continuously monitored and are central to everyday life for their occupants. In these territories, as in the case of the private dwelling but also of the semi-public halls of entrance halls and courtyards, the process of identification with the owner is obvious, invasions or unauthorized entries by foreigners create serious problems, and control of the Access is very strong.

It is in these spaces that the link between regulation of privacy and territoriality is most visible.

credit to

Secondary territories are less central to people's lives, less pervasive and exclusive. They are divided into territories of the home (‘home territories’) and spaces or interactional territories.

In the first, users or inhabitants maintain a high level of access control compared to other visitors, given their relevance in their daily life practices: it is traditionally the case with pubs, social clubs, neighborhood gardens. In fact, these are middle territories between the most properly private spaces and the public spaces par excellence, and for this reason they have also been defined as third places ("thirdplaces"). These are contexts for many social practices of mutual recognition and daily interaction that are useful for strengthening locally-based social ties, especially for those populations that live most in their environment near the home, as in the case of the elderly and children.

Interactional territories, on the other hand, represent contexts of specific interaction that go beyond the spatial proximity to the residential context, but which become territories of the group when it takes possession of it at particular times of the day and according to relatively continuous social practices over time.

Public territories are spaces where, on a theoretical level, everyone has the freedom of access and a right to employment.

These contexts are also called free, public, temporary territories. It is also possible to distinguish traditional public spaces in the city (parks, roads, etc.), where access is free but behavior is conditioned by certain rules (such as time and rules of behavior), by real free territories , as in the case of some isolated natural spaces where behavior is less subject to the set of social and institutional rules of urban public spaces.

Public territories generally have relatively fragile personal and social control mechanisms, being highly dependent on institutional rules, rather than on the regulation and control processes of individuals and social groups.

2 views0 comments
bottom of page