Questions for the solarium complex:
5.10.2007 by John Hawke

want do we want for public space? Do people really want a shared space, or in the end would people prefer to have their own share? In the orange work we tried to test the idea of a public ownership of public space by enabling behaviors that are more commonly associated with a space owned individually—such as, reclining, putting your feet up, or sleeping — crossing the two behavior parameters in order to reveal a site and the vectors of spatial pressure.

But what were the interests or priorities of the using public—in this case the Elgsletta area residents? We see that the Solarium was used by residents with a generally weak ability to make a space claim for themselves (homeless persons, street people, etc.) who saw it as a fortunate passive space to be claimed, and when possible closed off. Though the structure was initially clean, open and safe, it did not generally attract the mixed use of the jogger or the mother pushing the pram. It is as though the space was seen as exceptional, not fitting into pre-established spatial patterns and so attracted an exceptional population that has little ability to control a private space of home or apartment—public space as a collective remainder for those without private space. What would happen if this understanding were to be formalized in law?

The project’s result perhaps puts into question the default leftist protest against the privatization of public space—that it a resource to be shared, because perhaps in reality, we are not so interested in making the social negotiations that sharing entails. One could point to the particularities of the site, with its mark of the other (Somali hash dealers, junkies) to account for this reaction, but I think the site just put the question into stronger relief—the dynamic might be replicated, albeit more softly at other sites.

Is this a question of the cultural conditioning associated with capitalism or does it reach back to something more natural, as Adam Smith proposed with his “tragedy of the commons” theory?

As far as the structure needing to be taken down, I think it is a very good result for the project, breaking through the circumscribed envelope that often encompasses the artworld, and pushing a situation until it became problematic.

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