(1) - The Public Domain

As this is an important concept, it is essential here to analyse the term “public domain”, as well as to consider some of its implications.  This term is usually defined as “property rights that are held by the public at large”. However, this strict definition might also include prisons and aircraft carriers. Instead, I use the term here to mean “that which is owned by all for the use of all”.  Essential in this definition, in my opinion, is a right, the right not to be excluded.  In this sense, the concept of the public domain is a further democratic evolution of the Greek agora, the Roman forum, the squares and piazzas of the medieval cities.  More inclusive than these spaces, the public domain carries with it the traditions and expectations of civic, political, religious or artistic expression. 

The idea of the public domain is gradually being diluted and transformed.  Shops, cafés, and other privately owned spaces are often lumped together with the public domain.  They are not truly public, however, they are “semi-public” or “semi-private”.  The growing importance of this semi-private domain is in fact a reflection of the loss of true public spaces. This is understandable: if they are not included, all we have left with is a vision of pavements and very little else.  

More difficult to define in this context is the role of public parks. When surrounded by walls, locked at night and subject to rules that forbid political gatherings, busking, etc., it is hard to see how they fill the traditional role of a “Public Forum”. But in any order, a token green space used as a game reserve for community life is certainly no substitute for a living city.