Side by Side
How do we exist together in public space? Does the architecture that shapes the type of space we occupy affect how public identity is formed in a city? Through the project ‘Side by Side’ I explore these questions and interrogate how urban identity is formed in corporate space. In their most idealised states the shared spaces of a city are sites where inhabitants can exist as equals: this notion informed the title of the project. Philosopher Iris Marion Young’s concept of ‘side by side particularity’ states that strangers exist alongside one another yet maintain a degree of separation through their difference; their coming together is as much about coincidence of difference as it is about identity. A collective urban identity is a consequence of this coincidence of difference.
I am interested in how public identity develops in the context of complex power structures in corporate environments, and in reaction to the backgrounds of uniformity that these structures create architecturally. Do these environments change how we exist as a public body in the city? The strangeness of these spaces is reflected in the title ‘side by side’ applied to images of strangers together in corporate environments: there is a disconnect between the familiarity and safeness implied in the words, and the alienation of the spaces depicted.
The project focuses on corporate space because the power relations attached to these spaces impact upon how we exist together as a public body. Corporate land that appears to be public challenges the ideals of public space and this has an effect on the day-to-day lives of individuals in the city. I shot these images in London: around Canary Wharf, London Bridge and Broadgate Circle. The perception of these environments as public spaces is illusory since the spaces are owned and managed by private corporations. To everyday inhabitants the land appears to be public, and for their purposes functions as such. The power dynamics that underpin these spaces signal a shift in the way city dwellers relate to urban landscapes, and each other.