Assessment of User Perception on Public and Private Spaces within Urban Context
Keywords:Urban Public Space, User Perception, Ownership, Access Controls
Public spaces are vital features in the urban context which offers inclusive environment for everyone in the society. Traditionally, urban public spaces (UPS) were developed by the government intended for places of interaction with the aims of social welfare and public health. In the recent past, private sector involvement in the public space provision was visible with significant changes in the form and functions influenced by market-based motives. Although commercialization or privatization aspects of public space was often debated, the user perception of the use of public spaces from ownership and access control aspects were less studied in the context of developing countries. This study aimed at identifying the attributes for which people differentiate and experience in four public spaces owned and operated by the government and private sector in the city of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The study used 35 semi-structured interviews and 119 online questionnaire surveys to identify the user defined features of ownership and access control for public space use. The results revealed that government owned and operated spaces were preferred by the users due to easy access and freedom for activities while privately owned spaces were preferred due to better infrastructure, safety, and security within. Also, each public space offered benefits to specific user profile regardless its ownership or access controls. However, the freedom and openness provided by government owned spaces were identified as important in comparison with the restrictions imposed by private sector operated public spaces. This study provides key insights for urban planners and policy makers to identify the role of private sector in the provision of effective urban spaces in the fast-growing cities as well as possible pitfalls and negative externalities created by unregulated spaces
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