Margaret Crawford, PhD Urban Planning from UCLA, is Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. Her research focuses on the evolution, uses, and meanings of urban space. She is known for her work on Everyday Urbanism, a concept that promotes the quotidian as the basis for urban theory and design.
Following Fraser’s (1992) “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Crawford argues we’re not seeing an end to public space. Rather, our conceptions of public space and the agents who constitute them need to change. Here, the two populations most designed against are street vendors and the homeless. The splintering of democracy and attendant contests/tensions provides us with opportunities. Counterpublics comprise women, immigrants, workers, and they demand their rights outside the Habermasian public sphere. They blur the lines between private and public in their modes because they adopt unconventional practices, including acts of civil disobedience, in concert with the accepted legislative processes.
And following Holston’s (1996) “Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship,” these democratic uprisings take place in public arenas, whether Sorkin, Davis, et al. choose to recognize it. Counterpublics affirm their is not one place that can adequately convey an inclusive, democratic space. This is because “public spaces are constantly changing, as users reorganize and reinterpret public space. Unlike normative spaces, which simply reproduce the existing ideology, these spaces, often sites of struggle, help to overturn it” (5). In the civil unrest of 1992 and in the time hence, marginalized groups have reclaimed the streets, sidewalks, and vacant spaces for their purposes, democratic, economic, and participatory. While no one calls them public space in full, their actions “reveal an alternate logic of public life” (6).