From private to public: redeveloping private space as the way to reframe publicness of everyday life.

Investigating build-by-people trials in Shanghai





Publicness, Public space, Build-by-people trials, People’s City


The publicness discourse has been extensively explored from the perspectives of numerous disciplinary interests, multiple actors, especially the government and expert professions, and its normative ideal. This study examines how individual engagement in shaping private and semi-public space could be viewed as a means of reframing the publicness of everyday life and thereby contributing to the shaping of cities. Through examining the rationale of build-by-people trials in Shanghai, categorising in stewarding practise, DIY tactic, and informal trial, this study anticipates shedding light on the particularities of publicness in the contemporary Chinese context. Drawing on empirical data from observation and interviews, the study discusses different facets of build-by-people trials, including the combination of desire and belief to push individuals to be a part of the public, contribution to forgotten spaces, impact on social relationships, as well as concerns on privatisation. The analysis demonstrates that the current ‘build-by-people’ trials have manifested their capacity to proactively engage concerned citizens, develop forgotten spaces, and advance a broader sense of publicness discourse. However, additional research is needed to investigate how to maximise the value of ‘build-by-people’ practises in a sustainable manner, and how to strategically advocate for more ‘public-isation’ processes while keeping the privatisation scenario from deteriorating.



Author Biography

Xuewei Chen, University College London

Xuewei Chen a PhD student at The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL. Before pursuing her PhD study, Xuewei completed her dual master's degrees in urban planning and urban design at the University of Michigan. Her research interest includes: public space, urban design, public participation, urban governance.


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