Public and Private: Empty Space

"HORROR vacui – fear of emptiness – is the driving force in contemporary American taste. Along with the commercial interests that exploit this fear, it is the major factor now shaping attitudes toward public spaces, urban centers and even suburban sprawl.

Every public space must be packed with distractions. Food and flower vendors, musicians, banners, fountains, benches and plants must fill every mid-block plaza. They must be packed with young urban professionals, picturesquely enjoying wrap sandwiches and bottles of Evian water. Otherwise, it is a failure. Periodically, photographs of empty spaces will be published. Captions will say: these are failures … 

Existential film noirs, these movies portray a kind of space that remains useful in the present moment of urban transformation: space noir. Emptiness is its essential quality … 

… The emptiness is ideal for sorting out inner and outer worlds. It's a democratic space, too. Democratic and popular are not, after all, synonyms. There are moments, in fact, when the two concepts are at odds. A city that offers the alternative of unpopular spaces is more accessible than a city that only tolerates popular success.

AND I wonder if failed space isn't more conducive to creativity. This may be a romantic notion, but it's also a classical idea. Think of Goethe pondering Roman ruins. Postindustrial cities that are seeking to remake themselves as cultural centers might also benefit from pondering the success of failure: the glamour of their own collapse.

Emptiness, obscurity, failure, bleakness, pallor – such noir terms are not found in the vocabulary of civic success with which urban revitalization programs are typically promoted. But these terms should be permissible wherever culture comes up. Even an artist like Warhol, with all that diamond dust in his eyes, knew that too much glitter is unhealthy for art."

–ART/ARCHITECTURE; Public Space or Private, a Compulsion to Fill It

I am always interested in how architecture/urban design separates interior and exterior spaces and how it defines social and interpersonal relationships (socio, political, economic, access, etc). Emptiness and "failed" spaces allow public and private domains to collide, inner and outer boundaries to be redefined.