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The Democratization of Public Space: Insurgent or Institutional Occupation of Puerta del Sol in Madrid?
Demonstrations in public squares all around the world have, since 2011, highlighted opportunities and challenges for public space both socially and spatially. In Madrid, Spain, the temporary occupation of Puerta del Sol's square provided that location with a new symbolic meaning. Recently, Madrid's administrations and corporations have launched a competition. Under the pretext of adding benches and trees to the historic paved square, there may be an explicit attempt of transforming Sol into what Sharon Zukin calls a "place of consumption," reverting Sol's meaning as a symbol of democracy. While most cities are transforming their squares and parks into controlled and restricted places, this research questions their true level of democracy. In an analysis of Puerta del Sol's recent events, this paper argues that planning and design professionals, public processes, and policies tended to privilege those in power. The paper shows how public spaces today should deal with the ambivalence of being both a place for enacting (institutional) and a place for action (insurgent). This may lead towards less rigid and regulated design principles and more inclusive, democratic, and flexible public processes of decision-making.
Occupation of Public Space, Institutional Space, Insurgent Space.
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