Social infrastructures and public facilities: notes on Finsbury Park, London

Authors: Jack Layton*, University College London, Alan Latham, University College London
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Public space, infrastructure, materiality, justice, democracy, cities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper will examine the case of Finsbury Park in North London. The park is caught in the middle of a number of debates relevant to those interested in making sense of the public life of cities. It is well used: by dog walkers, picnickers, runners, and sports people. It can be understood as a micropublic (Amin, 2008), a site of conviviality (Neal, et al. 2015), and part of the social infrastructure of London (Klinenberg, 2018). But it is also underfunded. The local council has hosted music festivals and other events in the park as a way to fund the park’s upkeep and maintenance — leading to protest and court cases from some local residents. It is a public space at a time of austerity (Jackson, 2018), with disputes unfolding about what the park should be used for (Iveson, 2007). This paper will introduce the concept of the public facility as a way to navigate some of these debates. Public facility is term that draws attention to the breadth and depth of activity a public space can facilitate. It also foregrounds the fact that public facilities are spaces that need to be designed, provided, maintained, and managed — all questions that affect the kind of public life that comes to inhabit a given space. In what follows we’ll use empirical evidence from Finsbury Park to demonstrate the use of public facility as a concept, and highlight the lessons learned for making cities better, more vibrant places to live.

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