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Public space is the setting of public life and ideally functions as a forum for political action and expression; as a 'neutral' or common ground for social interaction, intermingling, and communication; and as a stage for social learning, personal development and information exchange. Throughout history, communities have developed public spaces that support their needs, whether these are markets, places for sacred celebrations, or sites for local rituals. As the social, economic, and political centres of cities, they have played a variety of roles in human life at the physical, psychological, social, political, economic and symbolic levels. However, in contemporary urban life, public spaces have lost a lot of their value and contemporary trends have constrained their development. Nowadays, more than 75% of the population of Mexico lives in cities, yet poverty, insecurity, social and physical fragmentation, and low quality environments are the main characteristics of Mexican urban spaces. This paper intends to examine how the transformation and appropriation of public space is taking place socially and spatially in the diverse and contrasting settings of contemporary urban Mexico. In this context, it is crucial to discuss how Mexican cities should reconstruct and reproduce their public spaces to meet the challenges of the 21st century and build more responsive and sustainable urban environments.
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THE (RE)CONSTRUCTION OF PUBLIC SPACE IN TODAY’S MEXICAN CITY
Mauricio Hernández Bonilla
Archnet-IJAR, International Journal of Architectural Research
Copyright © 2012 Archnet-IJAR, Volume 6 - Issue 2 - July 2012 - (65-78)
65
Abstract
Public space is the setting of public life and ideally
functions as a forum for political action and
expression; as a ‘neutral’ or common ground for social
interaction, intermingling, and communication; and
as a stage for social learning, personal development
and information exchange. Throughout history,
communities have developed public spaces that
support their needs, whether these are markets,
places for sacred celebrations, or sites for local rituals.
As the social, economic, and political centres of cities,
they have played a variety of roles in human life at the
physical, psychological, social, political, economic
and symbolic levels. However, in contemporary
urban life, public spaces have lost a lot of their
value and contemporary trends have constrained
their development. Nowadays, more than 75% of
the population of Mexico lives in cities, yet poverty,
insecurity, social and physical fragmentation, and low
quality environments are the main characteristics of
Mexican urban spaces. This paper intends to examine
how the transformation and appropriation of public
space is taking place socially and spatially in the
diverse and contrasting settings of contemporary
urban Mexico. In this context, it is crucial to discuss
how Mexican cities should reconstruct and reproduce
their public spaces to meet the challenges of the 21st
century and build more responsive and sustainable
urban environments.
Keywords
Public space, Mexican city, urban transformation,
public life.
Introduction
Public spaces in cities are important for
health, well-being, learning, conict resolution,
tolerance and solidarity (Shaftoe, 2008).
They are the settings where history, culture,
development, progress and even the
drawbacks of a society become visible. In
this sense, public urban space and the public
realm are useful indicators of how societies
are coping with the new challenges posed
by the contemporary economic, social and
environmental trends of the 21st century city.
Today, Mexico’s urban centres are the product
of an increasingly diverse range of actors,
interests and values. Various contrasting
approaches to producing, transforming, and
managing urban environments in terms of
territorial growth, housing production, urban
and economic development and revitalization
can be identied. In this context, cities are
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built and rebuilt not only under the inuence
of current tendencies, but also according to
traditional and emerging political, social and
cultural practices particular to present day
Mexico.
Nowadays, in urban Mexico, different forms
of public space production and consumption
can be observed. On the one hand, in the
afuent areas of most cities, public urban space
reects contemporary economic trends and
the dominance of wealth; on the other hand,
public spaces in traditional areas and lower-
income neighbourhoods reect completely
different rationalities and dynamics.
This paper intends to examine how the
appropriation and transformation of public
space is taking place socially and spatially
in the different and contrasting settings of
contemporary urban Mexico; it will also discuss
specic examples of the (re)construction of
more “habitable” and “democratic” urban
spaces. The main question is: ‘How are Mexican
cities reconstructing and reproducing their
public spaces, through these various processes,
to meet the challenges of the 21st century?’
Contemporary Constraints on Public Space
Public space, like the city as a whole, is both
container and content. It is a space for being:
physically, socially and culturally. However,
public space is not only a stage or setting: it also
implies a process of social production which
includes all those social, economic, ideological,
and technological factors that result, or seek to
result, in the physical creation of the material
setting (Low 2000). Moreover, public space is
also a social construction, which implies the
consumption of the space produced.
These perspectives involve looking at urban
space in relation to how places are used and
appropriated and what meanings derive from
those spaces in the minds of those who consume
them. In this way, public space is produced
and consumed by everyone that lives in cities:
urban managers, local authorities, planners,
designers, ordinary citizens, visitors and tourists
- all the actors that make and transform cities,
leaving their imprint on urban settings.
Since the end of the 20th century, several
analysts have examined the different aspects
that constrain contemporary public space
in cities. In terms of the fragmentation and
privatisation of public space, Richard Sennett
(1994) proclaims the death of truly public
space, the triumph of modern individualism
and the loss of condence in public and
community experiences, which is manifested
in the increasing social apathy towards public
life in contemporary urban societies. Similarly,
Loukaitou-Sideris (1988: 7) argues that public life
has become spatially disjointed, dispersed, and
discontinuous. The educational, informative
and communicative character of public space
has also weakened. Some of these functions
have migrated, largely to the private sphere.
Boyer (1996:9) suggests that the ‘public’ has
become a negative concept, in contrast to
the ‘private’ which has been refurbished with
an exalted ‘image’. This has contributed to a
decline of public life in which public space has
become, ‘empty space, a space of abstract
freedom but no enduring human connection’
(Sennett, 1994: 375).
Other researchers have argued that the
modern city offers an increasingly inhospitable
environment for the widespread enjoyment
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of and use of public space. Çelik et al (1994)
argue that in many parts of the world, streets
no longer seem to be a viable social and
cultural space. She afrms that there has been
a disengagement from the city because it is a
place of uncontrollable diversity (Çelik, et al.
1994). Similarly, Valentine (2001:199) points out
that, ‘the public realm, rather than being a social
order of civility, sociality and tolerance, has
increasingly become one of apprehension and
insecurity.’ Fear of crime is closely associated
with perceptions of who occupies and controls
the space of the street, and is leading people to
avoid public space and a spiral of avoidance
and abandonment is setting in (Valentine, 2001:
178; Porta, 1999: 144).
Transport and communication technologies
have also constrained urban public spaces. In
most traditional cities, before the common use
of vehicles, the street was an extension of the
buildings that faced onto it. People sat in chairs
in front of their homes, and businesses displayed
goods on mats and tables in the street. With the
rise of motorized vehicles, the street became less
a part of the community and more of a place
for transient strangers, and people passing
through (Ford, 2000: 6-7). Nowadays, public
spaces have often become residual spaces,
used for parking cars, or at best associated with
particular limited functions, such as tourism and
retail (Çelik et al. 1994; Madanipour, 2003).
Moreover, Madanipour (1999, 2003, and 2010)
argues that the growing size of the city has led to
a specialization of space, which has dismantled
the symbolic and functional coherence of
both public and private spheres. Furthermore,
a disconnection between private and public
space in these pseudo-public spaces, such
as the fortied shopping mall, has contributed
to the decline of the signicance of public
space (Çelik, et al. 1994). Similarly, bazaars
and market places have been exchanged for
window shopping in malls, where the shopper
has been converted into the passive spectator,
the isolated individual, silently contemplating
merchandise (Crawford, 1992:17).
In this way, the increasing intervention of the
private sector in public space production
has contributed to the privatisation of space,
and now public space is treated as a mere
commodity (Loukaitou-Sideris, 1988; Burgers,
2000; Madanipour, 2003). This situation has led
to the reduction of their ‘publicness’ and the
emergence of a shifting process from being
somewhat ‘open’ to somewhat ‘closed’
(Davis, 1990; Sorkin, 1992; Mitchell, 1995; Gulick,
1998). Sorkin (1992: xi) regards this as the
emergence of a new kind of city, a city without
a place attached to it, where a disaggregated
patchwork of urban fabric forms a bland,
senseless environment.
In contrast to these arguments, which are mainly
drawn from cities in the northern hemisphere,
with regard to public life and spaces in the
present day Latin American city, Segre (2002)
argues that despite the adoption by the
minority elite of imported models and habits,
most people’s everyday life and recreational
activities in Latin America and the Caribbean
continue to be concentrated in open public
spaces. The majority of Latin Americans still wish
to experience the city rather than retreating
to isolated shopping malls. Streets, parks,
plazas, and promenades constitute spaces for
encounter and hold a social value in opposition
to the individualist city of the elite (expressed in
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gated neighbourhoods and shopping malls). In
contrast to those who argue about the exalted
image of the private, in Latin America people
claim the need for a more outdoor public life,
as demonstrated in research carried out by the
United Nations Development Program-Chile
2000 (UN 2000), in which the demand for public
space was expressed.
Public Space Transformation in the
Contemporary Mexican City
Different facets of public space can be
observed in Mexican cities. In this context,
public space represents an important source
of information about the history, culture, social
values, and contemporary development of
Mexican society. Whilst public space shows the
prominence of a great heritage, culture and
collective life, unfortunately, the drawbacks
of contemporary Mexican society are also
evident.
Mexico is a country with huge social and
economic differences and contrasts: while
there is a small elite dominating most of the
economic power, there is also a large majority
of the population living on the margins of
economic, social and human development.
In the public realm, one can observe the
constraints of contemporary urban Mexico.
On the one hand, several factors are evident,
such as unemployment and social exclusion;
lack of adequate land tenancy policies or
social services; urban blight and fragmentation;
precarious housing conditions and poor urban
infrastructure, while on the other hand, nancial
capital and interests can be seen modifying
cities for the benet of the highest income
groups, in privatized developments which only
a few have access to.
This situation is apparent in the physical
characteristics of the space, social interaction,
political protests and all the practices of
appropriation that people carry out in city
centre streets and squares, on pavements,
in parks and market places and other urban
spaces in their neighbourhoods. In this way,
Mexican cities exemplify public space with
the characteristics described and discussed
by public space analysts and researchers.
Renovation and beautication of public places
is constant, especially in historical areas, an
elite-exclusive city is promoted in new luxury/
high-end developments, and abandonment
and neglect are the normal condition of
many marginal public places, where social
fragmentation, exclusion and insecurity are
often common characteristics.
The Values of Social Equity
In low-income peripheral neighbourhoods
and some other fragmented environments,
public space embodies the precariousness and
marginalisation of the community. However,
through the struggle to defend, protect and
improve public places, residents develop a
sense of belonging and attachment, and learn
to value public space, which leads to actions
for improvement. We may think that the urban
poor in Latin America are not interested in public
spaces, but on the contrary, there are residents
in low-income neighbourhoods who aspire
to urban continuity rather than discontinuity,
integration rather than fragmentation and
spatial quality rather than merely satisfying
basic necessities, and this is shown in the
different public spaces developed in low-
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income neighbourhoods. In Mexico, streets,
parks and pavements have been built by the
low-income population through solid collective
participation (see Figure 1).
In the city of Xalapa, Veracruz, inhabitants of
low-income peripheral neighbourhoods have
been observed protecting and improving streets
and parks in their neighbourhoods. People
have defended public green areas from new
residents who want to illegally occupy these
spaces in order to build their houses. In order to
avoid the invasion of public space, inhabitants
have built playgrounds, paved streets, and
maintained public places to benet children
and young people. Moreover, inhabitants have
organized themselves in order to achieve the
upgrading of public space with the help of local
authorities, an important actor in the adequate
and permanent development of public spaces.
Public space production and consumption
in these contexts show people´s capacity to
organise, reach consensus and work collectively
for their urban environment. Figures 1 and
2 show that in low-income neighbourhoods
there is a legitimate interest in public space
transformation and improvement in order
to construct a more integrated city. Public
space improvement is regarded as part of the
solution to social problems such as vandalism
or social fragmentation that may occur in
neighbourhoods. Furthermore, public space is
also seen as an asset with educational and
Figure 1: The low-
income populations
build public
space through
solid collective
participation in
Xalapa, Mexico.
(Source: Local
residents).
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social signicance for the positive development
of children and young people.
Privatized Public Space
However, from a different perspective, the
urban populations with more economic
power are building/developing new forms of
urban space which promote privatisation and
fragmentation through the creation of closed
residential neighbourhoods, protected by walls
and gates, where only the inhabitants and
members of the inhabitants’ community are
allowed access. Moreover, shopping malls
and international/multinational supermarkets
combine with this new city growth, where
public space is regarded only as a space
for the trafc and therefore lacks a pleasant
pedestrian environment. Privatisation of public
space through these new urban development
leads us to reect on the relationship between
public and private space in our cities.
The promotion of private and individualistic
values in contemporary society, and the
attitudes and policies of city authorities in
favour of private interests and actors, have
been decisive factors in the conguration of
21st century public space. Nowadays, in most
major Mexican cities there are well-off areas
where shopping malls, restaurants, ofces
and luxury gated residential areas are being
developed. Santa Fe, an area located in the
south of Mexico City, symbolises the new values
of contemporary public space. A public-private
urbanism that seeks to break the city into
fragments emerges in Santa Fe, isolating people
and segregating social groups, enclosing each
group in their own ghettos without public
spaces and confronting them with their own
environment. Santa Fe seems to be a walled
city for the exclusive use of its cowardly and
wealthy residents (Borja, 2003). Furthermore, in
areas like this, public spending on infrastructure
and services is also concentrated to the benet
of private investment/investors; this is in contrast
Figure 2: A public space in Xalapa (Source: Image
created by the author, aerial photo by the Instituto
Nacional de Estadistica, Geografía e Informática
retrieved from Google Earth 2012, Date: 06.06.2012, other
photographs taken by the author and local residents).
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to the lack of investment and improvement of
public spaces in low-income areas (see Figure
3).
Public space in these contemporary urban
environments is at great risk. Lara (2007), in
her research in Merida, Yucatan, argued that
the conguration of urban space, strongly
determined by economic interests, had brought
about low-density land use, and the creation
of inaccessible areas in cites due to physical
barriers and gates where only residents or
those with permission have access. Therefore,
social and physical fragmentation has become
a common characteristic of many Mexican
cities. Since contemporary development is
exclusive to some areas and particular groups,
the lack of provision of urban services, green
areas, and public spaces for the benet of
low-income areas and the city as whole is also
very common. Moreover, Lara (2007) found
that since neighbourhoods are gated and
privatized, the city authorities also neglect these
areas and fail in the provision of some public
services (e.g. rubbish collection or public street
lighting). As a result, the impoverishment of the
urban space in cities is evident; Mexican cities
have developed with corridors of shopping
malls and private gated neighbourhoods in
some privileged areas, described by Sorkin
(1992: xi), as a “disaggregated patchwork of
urban fabric [which] forms a bland, senseless
environment.”
Public Space, Tradition and Identity
In the last few decades, public space in historic
city centres has also received a lot of attention
in most Mexican cities. Since the country has
been strongly promoted as an attractive
tourist destination, historic city centres play an
important role in economic development. City
centres have been transformed into spaces for
tourism and retail, with the view that historic
city centres are part of the urban heritage
which should be preserved and revitalised in
order to bring about economic revitalisation
Figure 3: Plan of land use in Santa Fe, Mexico City, aerial
photograph and a view of the shopping mall (Source:
Image created by the author, Land use plan from the
Programa Parcial de Desarrollo Urbano de Santa Fe,
Gobierno del Distrito Federal (2000), Aerial photo by the
Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, Geografía e Informática
(INEGI 2012) obtained from Google Earth 2012, Date of
access 06.06.2012).
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and regeneration. Although, some successful
physical improvements and conservation
strategies have been implemented in Mexico,
these have been carried out to favour tourism
and economic development, while local
inhabitants, and social and symbolic identities
that have characterized these urban spaces for
many centuries, have been weakened.
Some interesting urban interventions can be
observed: for example, in the renovation of
Mexico city´s historic centre, a great deal
of public space, such as streets, squares
and parks, has been improved, together
with the promotion of major development
projects (hotels, restaurants, ofces, housing).
Considering that this central area was totally
abandoned for many decades with serious
problems such as crime, low property prices,
invasion of public space by street vendors and
cars, and with very low occupancy of housing,
the regeneration strategies implemented in this
area have led to successful urban revitalisation.
However, integrated development frameworks
need to be visualised, planned, designed and
implemented by urban managers in order to
nd a successful means of urban renovation
and regeneration (see Figure 4).
Public spaces and the urban townscape
have been renewed in many historic city
centres, but without any intervention in social
and economic development for inhabitants
and local businesses. This has given rise to
revitalisation strategies with poor long-term
sustainability. The case of the historic centre
of the port-city of Veracruz is a good illustration
of this. Here, renovation has taken place in
public spaces and the facades of buildings, but
there is a lack of urban, economic and social
strategies to sustain physical renovation and
revitalisation. There are still many areas with
very low quality environments, characterised
by abandoned properties, with many rundown
Figure 4: Mexico city´s historic centre, The “Zocalo” and Madero Street recently pedestrianized (Sources: Author).
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buildings housing multiple families (patios de
vecindad), and a total neglect for transport and
mobility services. Moreover, the conservation or
restoration of the interiors of buildings is not very
high on the agenda.
Finally, the lack of interest and consensus
among actors, agencies and government to
establish long-term architectural, urban, social
and economic strategies that trigger a holistic
development process is evident. This situation
leaves a high degree of uncertainty for viable
renewal and revitalisation processes in historic
city centres.
Environmental Revitalisation
When political willingness, economic and social
support and legitimate benets for the city and
its citizens are present, urban projects are usually
very successful. In the north of Mexico, the
Paseo Santa Lucia (Saint Lucia’s promenade)
in the city of Monterrey is a thriving case of
public space development. Monterrey is the
richest city in northern Mexico, and has a strong
industrial base with a very strong economy. Its
people are often characterized as enterprising
and dynamic, and this is also reected in the
image of the city. It has a large public space
known as the Macroplaza, which is currently
the second largest plaza in the world after
Tiananmen Square in China. It covers an area
of 400,000 square metres, consisting of various
monuments, smaller plazas and gardens.
In this context, Paseo Santa Lucia is an
approximately three-kilometre linear park linking
the historic centre with a former ‘fundidora,’ or
steel foundry, which has been converted into an
urban park. The Paseo is a canal along which
pedestrian footpaths, fountains, green areas,
public art, cultural spaces, and restaurants
are located. Local residents and tourists can
stroll along the promenade or take a boat
from Parque Fundidora to the city centre and
vice versa to enjoy the different features of this
public space. Parque Fundidora was opened
in 2001 and is also considered one of the
largest public spaces in the country because
it is a park covering 114 hectares where many
recreational facilities, including an amusement
park, museums and shops, are found within the
metropolitan area of the city.
These new public spaces have been very
successful in giving Monterrey a new face,
for the enjoyment and socialisation of city
inhabitants and visitors from all over the world.
These examples represent urban places that
have brought real environmental, social and
economic benets to the city and its inhabitants.
Nowadays, international sport events,
celebrations, meetings and trade fairs take
place in Parque Fundidora and Paseo Santa
Lucia. Paseo Santa Lucia has revitalised the
urban environment of many neighbourhoods
with green areas, new local businesses, cafés,
restaurants and spaces for recreation and
relaxation (see Figure 5).
Spaces of Fear and Insecurity
Mexican public space is full of contradictions:
whilst in some urban areas worthwhile public
spaces are encouraged and built, as seen
in the previous case, in other areas, private
actors and local authorities are promoting
a privatised city, as with the development
of closed residential compounds. Moreover,
some cities are characterised by public spaces
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full of violence and insecurity and a lack of
social values. Ciudad Juarez, on the northern
border, is a city where public space has lost its
role as a social integrator and linker. This is an
unhealthy urban environment, characterised
by drug dealing and killings in public space,
and where the murder of women has been
a problem for almost a decade. In terms of
public space improvement, local authorities
have made efforts to improve and upgrade
neighbourhoods, in order to create a better
and safer physical environment, but these
interventions have been insufcient and had
little impact.
The causes of the unsafe urban environment
Figure 5: Parque
Fundidora and Paseo
Santa Lucia (Source:
Image created by the
author, aerial photo by
the Instituto Nacional de
Estadistica, Geografía e
Informática (INEGI 2012)
obtained from Google
Earth 2012, Date:
06.06.2012).
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in this city go beyond the poor quality of
public space. Ciudad Juarez represents a
passageway to the United States for many
Mexican and Central American migrants who
look for a better life in the “American dream”.
In addition, the city is the hub of one of the most
important drug cartels in the world – the Cartel
de Juárez. As a result, the city and its urban
environment are under constant threat. For this
reason, social interaction, economic exchange,
and collective activities in public space
have signicantly decreased. Inhabitants’
interactions in many neighbourhoods in the
city are characterized by fear of crime and
insecurity. Moreover, the low quality of the
urban environment is a general feature,
because public areas are now abandoned
spaces which have turned into derelict land
occupied by people considered undesirable
and frightening to the general population.
To sum up, urban environments in this city are
deserted and threatening. It could be said that
public space in Ciudad Juarez is an example
of what theoreticians have presented as the
emergence of a hostile, unsafe and unhealthy
public space, where the real signicance of
urban public places has been totally lost. Even
worse is the fact that due to public policies
against organized crime promoted by the
Federal Government in the last few years, this
situation is being replicated in many other cities
in the country.
Real Democracy and Pluralism
All city dwellers have a right to a sustainable public
space. In many urban neighbourhoods, residents
are concerned about high quality public space,
and consequently they struggle for their right to
enjoy public spaces that promote a healthier
urban environment within their communities. In
this way, it is believed that a real understanding of
the values and roles of public space for the benet
of urban communities, in accordance with more
participatory and democratic processes, should
lead to the improvement of urban environments
in our cities.
In contrast to the improvement of Ciudad Juarez,
the case of Ciudad Bicentenario in Metepec,
Estado de México, is an important example of
citizens participating to defend a great public
space against the state authorities, who intended
to sell the land to private investors to build a new
commercial and nancial centre, putting at risk
more than 100 hectares accessible as public
urban space and affecting the capacity of
urban infrastructure available to the city. The
citizens organized the defence and protection
of this space through strong urban protests and
the establishment of a social movement, called
“Salvemos SEDAGRO” supported by the “Grupo
Pro Reserva Natural Bicentenario” (a group in
favour of the Bicentenary Nature Reserve).
The movement managed to make the
authorities reconsider their plans, and instead
of this public land being privatised, inhabitants
achieved the planning of a park and public
facilities for the city. In its rst stage, the park
opened in 2009 following an investment of 70
million pesos (approximately 6 million USD). The
park includes extensive green areas, water
features, running tracks, an environmental
education centre, museum, library, sports and
commercial areas, parking space, information
points and medical centre, all with an
environmental focus to promote the protection
and conservation of the natural environment.
Parque Bicentenario provides a good example
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of citizens’ participation in the conservation of
open urban spaces in Mexico (see Figure 6).
Discussion
There is a general tendency towards privatisation
in most areas of modern life, and public space
is no exception. In contemporary neoliberal
capitalist societies, authorities seek to favour
internal investment and present a positive urban
image to international capital investors by
offering images of urban order and modernity,
envisioning and creating controlled and well-
managed urban spaces, but often neglecting
ordinary inhabitants, the needs of public space
users and the aspirations of those who are less
powerful.
In Mexico, even though some groups enjoy
high-quality spaces with similar characteristics
to those located in the urban environments
of most developed countries, there are other
groups who are deprived of this right within
urban society. Social exclusion and inequalities
that prevail in Mexican urban environments
are an aspect that weakens social and human
development, social inclusion, participation and
access to a high-quality urban environment.
Moreover, public space processes have
been affected by undemocratic political
practices. In many neighbourhoods, spaces
for local parks, playgrounds and other public
facilities have been left at the mercy of corrupt
leaders, authorities, politicians and many
other individuals and groups who negotiate
in exchange for private interests, political
or economic power. The spaces allocated
for public use are public properties legally
managed by the authorities, however, different
actors (inhabitants, governments and investors)
speculate with these areas, neglecting their
public status and their value for the social,
environmental, and cultural development
of urban communities, and promoting their
privatisation to develop a more protable city.
Furthermore, a privatised city that only favours
economic gains is characterised by physically
fragmented urban places that only promote
individualism and exclusion.
Figure 6. Parque bicentenario (Source:http://diarioportal.com. Date of Access: 06-06-2012).
Archnet-IJAR, International Journal of Architectural Research - Volume 6 - Issue 2 - July 2012
The (re)Construction of Public Space in Today’s Mexican City
MAURICIO HERNÁNDEZ BONILLA
77
Fully participatory and collaborative city
planning and design to maintain the balance
between the different interests (public-private,
economic-political, collective-individual) do
not really exist in contemporary urban Mexico.
Frequently, the resulting public space is strongly
dominated and controlled by the actors with
most economic and political power, to the point
that these ride roughshod over the process
and people’s desires. Citizens often have
to organise themselves and struggle against
government, investors and/or developers in
order to defend their right to public space and
eventually the right to a better and healthier
urban environment. In future research, it is
important to interview the actors involved in
processes of transformation: residents, planners,
urban managers, and other professionals,
in order to determine peoples’ perceptions
about power relations and community power.
Moreover, appraisals through questionnaires
and interviews with different users are important
to nd out their sentiments and opinions about
the quality of the improved public spaces.
Conclusion
At present, the important question to ask is how
to reconstruct public space in the Mexican
city of today, overcoming the tendencies of
privatisation of public space, the creation
of environments of fear and abandonment,
and social and political inequalities. Actors in
charge of the management of our cities should
make an effort to direct their public policies
towards the values of social equity, identity,
environmental quality, economic efciency,
political participation, real democracy and
pluralism in city planning and design, and
promote development that takes these aspects
into account. Moreover, more than 75% of
the Mexican population now lives in cities,
yet poverty, insecurity, social and physical
fragmentation, and low quality environments
are the main characteristics of Mexican
cities. Solving, or at least reducing, these
contemporary problems by providing better
housing environments, safe areas, education
and employment opportunities, high quality
streets, parks and green areas, and efcient
public transport, in other words, a higher quality
of life in cities, represents a real challenge for
most cities in the 21st century.
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-------------------------------------------------
Mauricio Hernandez Bonilla
Mauricio is an Architect from the University of
Veracruz, Mexico, and holds a Master of Arts in Urban
Design and a Ph.D. in Architecture and Planning
from the School of Architecture, Planning and
Landscape, at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne,
United Kingdom. Currently, he is a full time lecturer,
researcher and director of the Master program
in Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture of
the University of Veracruz. His research work has
been focusing on topics related to urban design
and planning, public space transformations and
participatory planning and design processes in low
income neighborhoods. His research has been
recognized by the Mexican National Council of
Science and technology (CONACYT), therefore,
since 2006, he has been appointed as a member of
the National Research System (SNI- level one). He has
published several research papers and book chapters
in various international journals and books; he has also
author and coedited three books on urban planning:
“Urban Approximations: Considerations about Land
and Urban Planning”, “Towards New Methodological
Perspectives for Urban Planning and Development”
and “City and public space” (Mexico). Mauricio is
also member and collaborator of various research
and academic groups at the faculties of architecture
at University of Veracruz, University of Ciudad
Juarez, and Universidad of Guanajuato. He can be
contacted at maurhernandez@uv.mx
... We conducted these questions with the three main groups with some level of participation in developing public spaces in the country, which are key actors commonly selected in other research (Boj orquez & Romo, 2018; Hern andez- Bonilla, 2012;Misetic, Krnic, & Kozina, 2013). The selection of the actors will be described more deeply in the methodology section. ...
... For the selection of the interviewed actors that participate in the planning process of public spaces, we selected three primary groups that are part of public infrastructure development. They are government agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector (Boj orquez & Romo, 2018; Hern andez- Bonilla, 2012;Misetic et al., 2013). In order to select the interviewees, we used the chain method. ...
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