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Public Space for Street-Scape Theatrics. Guerrilla Spatial Tactics and Methods of Urban Hacking in Brisbane, Australia


It could be argued that architecture has an inherent social responsibility to enrich the urban and spatial environments for the city’s occupants. However, how we define quality, and how ‘places’ can be designed to be fair and equitable, catering for individuals on a humanistic and psychological level, is often not clearly addressed. Lefebvre discusses the idea of the ‘right to the city’; the belief that public space design should facilitate freedom of expression and incite a sense of spatial ownership for its occupants in public/commercial precincts. Lefebvre also points out the importance of sensory experience in the urban environment. “Street-scape theatrics” are performative activities that summarise these two concepts, advocating the ‘right to the city’ by way of art as well as providing sensual engagement for city users. Literature discusses the importance of Street-scape Theatrics however few sources attempt to discuss this topic in terms of how to design these spaces/places to enhance the city on both a sensory and political level. This research, grounded in political theory, investigates the case of street music, in particular busking, in the city of Brisbane, Australia. Street culture is a notion that already exists in Brisbane, but it is heavily controlled especially in central locations. This study discusses how sensory experience of the urban environment in Brisbane can be enriched through the design for busking; multiple case studies, interviews, observations and thematic mappings provide data to gather an understanding of how street performers see and understand the built form. Results are sometime surprisingly incongruous with general assumptions in regards to street artist as well as the established political and ideological framework, supporting the idea that the best and most effective way of urban hacking is working within the system. Ultimately, it was found that the Central Business District in Brisbane, Australia, could adopt certain political and design tactics which attempt to reconcile systematic quality control with freedom of expression into the public/commercial sphere, realism upheld. This can bridge the gap between the micro scale of the body and the macro of the political economy through freedom of expression, thus celebrating the idiosyncratic nature of the city.

Pages:113 to 128
Section: Society
How to Cite
Cox, C. and Guaralda, M. (2016) “Public Space for Street-Scape Theatrics. Guerrilla Spatial Tactics and Methods of Urban Hacking in Brisbane, Australia”, The Journal of Public Space, 1(1), pp. 113-128. doi:

Author Biographies

Queensland University of Technology
Australia Australia
Masters of Architecture program at QUT, Brisbane Australia. I have worked in larger scale multifaceted practises, and freelanced small scale home refurbishments. I have also tutored the “Architecture and the City” course at QUT for the last 4 years.
Through the research conducted in my Masters of Architecture (QUT) I developed a keen interest and awareness for public space. This research was conducted on a theoretical and practical level and attempted to present both macro and micro ways in which our public space could be enriched.
Not only have I researched public space, I’m also a user of, and contributor to the experience of public space. My broader philosophy is that architecture has an inherent social responsibility to enrich the urban and spatial environments for the city’s occupants. Importantly this includes, not just the elite, but all residents of a city who engage in the experiential and spatial economy, actively or passively. It is my belief that public and cultural interaction has the potential to be experienced in idiosyncratic and unusual ways without posing threat to the greater safety and enjoyment of the public
Queensland University of Technology
Australia Australia
Mirko Guaralda is Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the Queensland University of Technology; his background includes experience in architectural design, landscape architecture and urban design. Before joining academia full time, Mirko has been working in industry and local government; he has been involved in a wide range of projects at different scales, from small dwellings and gardens, to new estates and urban strategic planning. Since 2001 Mirko has been involved in research projects in Australia as well as in Italy, his home country, and so far has received over $100,000.00 in funding for his work on cities and communities. He is currently research associate with the Centre for Subtropical Design, the Urban Informatics Research Lab and the Children and Youth Research Centre at QUT.
He is Founding Editor of ‘The Journal of Public Space’, jointly established by City Space Architecture and the Queensland University of Technology in partnership with UN Habitat, the United Nations Settlements Programme.


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