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Public-Private; who knows: who cares?

Devereux, Michael; Littlefield, David


Michael Devereux
Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning in Architecture and Urbanism


David Littlefield and Mike Devereux were commissioned to draw a map focusing on the issue of land seizure. This begged the question: who is seizing what? The privatisation of land and services (even through temporary, but often extended, leases) is something which causes unease in the UK, mainly due to questions over accountability and the profit motive. For this mapping exercise, Littlefield and Devereux embarked on a series of closely examined walks accompanied with maps of Bristol from a century ago. It became clear that land seizure goes both ways: public to private; private to public. Castle Park was once the city's commercial centre, defined by public highways and privately-owned buildings. The Harbourside of Canon's Marsh was once the site of railyards and industry. Asda remains in the private realm, but more open and accessible than the tobacco factory which once occupied the site. Littlefield and Devereux's map highlights defined areas of central Bristol and draws in the street pattern of 1910, illustrating not only physical change but the sense of access and ownership which accompanies these spaces. The map is also a surface on which to record questions which raised themselves during the walks. How do you know when you're in public or private space? Does it matter? How many of our essential services (food, drink, petrol, internet) are obtained from the private sector? How much access is there to public spaces such as hospitals, schools, prisons and City Hall? Who, really, owns public space? Private space (such as shopping malls) is often criticised for being ‘controlled’ but public space is subject rules – parking restrictions, alcohol use, policing etc…who makes the rules and why? How does the difference between legal ownership and a sense of belonging map itself against the spaces of the city?

The map contributed to a series of composite images (curated by Mosely, J and Warren S.) shown at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol between July and November 2014 as part of the gallery’s ‘The Promise’ exhibition.


Devereux, M., & Littlefield, D. (2014). Public-Private; who knows: who cares?

Digital Artefact Type Other
Conference Name The Promise
Conference Location Arnolfini, Bristol
Start Date Jul 6, 2019
End Date Nov 1, 2014
Publication Date Jul 10, 2014
Keywords place, layers, interpretation, public, private
Public URL