Community Spaces

 

Community Space: A discussion on how different examples of urban space conveys and amplifies specific psycho-social relations necessary for building a community.

Class discussions on this topic have provided some excellent examples of public space in urban settings, commenting on both its physical organisation, construction, etc. and its personal interpretation/usage.

One Wiki comment that I thought was especially provocative discusses the recent experiment with Times Square and the city’s attempt to re-zone the area as a pedestrian friendly zone. As Kimberly Twan Moberly notes: “Times Square located in New York City has recently undergone a renovation. In early 2009, it was decided by the city that in effort to control traffic in the area, to close Broadway to vehicular traffic for five blocks. The empty streets of Time Square were soon with lawn chairs and opened to pedestrians, who were now allowed to leisurely stroll through the streets.”

The Picture she provides says much:

 

 

 

 

 

NJIT Plaza Postsecondary institutions, whether public or private, offer many infrastructural elements conducive to community building. At an elementary level , providing a space for thousands of individual students from what is usually a wide range of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds demands strong communal visions of how the resources, architecture and plazas are to be used.

Above, we see the main outdoor plaza of NJIT in Newark, where I work as a Humanities professor. As a space, the campus compares well to many universities located in the larger urban areas of northeast North America. It is located in the centre of Newark, just a few blocks west of its main intersection at Market and Broad st. Unlike many major postsecondary institutions on West Coast that situate their campuses away from the urban centres of the city, conceiving the university plaza as a space of refuge and isolation for the purpose of study and production, NJIT is situated more like institutions like NYU, Rutgers, Columbia, University of Toronto, McGill, etc., in that interacts physically and intellectually with the city around it. One leaves campus simply by crossing a street and entering the downtown area.

At least that’s the theory. One can argue that this campus tends to provoke a less integrated relationship with its urban locale. The campus’s social infrastructure, being stronger than the city’s, would probably prefer the level of isolation we see in a campus like Princeton or Stanford. The climate in general, for most of the year, doesn’t encourage use of this space, but students tend to use it when possible as a kind of refuge from the city itself, rather than a part of it. The borders of the campus area are patrolled regularly by NJIT’s own police force, or security from Rutgers. Exit areas like light rail stops are regularly guarded by Newark police to make sure students feel safe. This kind of environment does not encourage much travelling between campus and non-campus areas. The students themselves have classified campus life as either dorm or commuter based.

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