Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tahrir Square: Social Media, Public Space: Places: Design Observer

The Mubarak government extended a series of policies initiated under Anwar Sadat. The regime supported laws and actions that sharply limited Egyptians’ access to public space — to places where citizens could congregate, meet, talk, interact. It promoted the development of gated communities with private parks, golf courses and luxury shopping malls, and in doing so facilitated the exodus of Cairo’s middle and upper classes into the desert at the city's periphery. At the same time the government ignored the city's center; its ongoing mismanagement of housing development has resulted in the extensive zone of informal housing, mostly unfinished brick shanties, that rings Cairo. And Mubarek worked to effectively dismantle and depopulate Cairo’s much-admired public squares and parks, including not just Tahrir Square but also Ramses Square and Azbakiyya Gardens. For decades, in fact, public policy and urban planning, like most governmental matters, were filtered through the harsh lens of state security. Urban open spaces — anywhere citizens might congregate and stage political demonstrations — were systematically subdivided or fenced off or given over to vehicular traffic and flyovers, and thus made challenging and even scary for pedestrians. Collectively such policies have led not only to the decline of public space but also to the inexorable deterioration of cities and the erosion of civic pride.

Read more : Tahrir Square: Social Media, Public Space: Places: Design Observer