Streets hold a special place in the literature on public space and are both literally and metaphorically the most fitting symbol of the public realm. Historically, the street has been one of the most significant public spaces in both occidental and oriental cultures. Yet, currently, the use and meaning of the street differs drastically between the East and West. The Western street is characterized by order and is a rationalized, regulated and commodified space whereas the oriental street is distinctive of an environment of complexity and contradictions, a diversity of use with an apparent disorder, and a place of over-stimulated sensory experience. In trying to enliven the street and to infuse it with vitality, the occidental cultures seek multiplicity, informality, ambiguity in form and use, and a heightened sensory experience. The orient, on the contrary, looks for ways to bring order to its seemingly chaotic milieu to appreciate the experience. What can the two cultures learn from each other? How can design inform the production and modification of spaces that allow the exchange without importing meaningless or acontextual forms? In this paper, I study streets in both cultures and explore the significance of the street as a meaningful place for meeting, interaction and human-human contacts, and a place for haptic experiences and body-object contacts. The comparison reveals the missing qualities in each context that prevent the street from realizing its full potential as a public space in both cultures. The paper concludes with suggestions that may be interpreted and materialized contextually in the East and West to make the street an active and meaningful public space in present time.
|Keywords:||Urban Public Space, Culture, Diversity, Social Space, Urban Design|
Assistant Professor, School of Architecture and Community Design, College of The Arts, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA
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