Spaces of urbanity. From the village square to the boulevard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


Urbanism is much more than simply an agglomeration of houses : it is a particular way of living space. Our considerations starts out from some of the historically prominent figures of urbanity, such as the market-place, the boulevard and the coffee house. Semiotics of space may either involve a certain number of elementary building-blocks being combined in particular ways, much as language is ; or it may be interested in the way a place is defined by the activities taking place in it. Opting here for the second approach, we try to give it a more secure grounding by incorporating into it a division of geography, know as time geography, which is involved with trajectories in space and time. We add to this a qualitative dimension which is properly semiotic, and which derives from the notion of border, itself a result of the primary semiotic operation of segmentation. We can learn a lot about semiotical properties of borders also from the social psychologies of Janet and Simmel, the proxemics of Hall, and the semiotics of Hammad. Such considerations permit us to define certain peculiar semio-spatial objects as, notably, the boulevard, considered as an intermediate level of public space, located between the village square and the coffee house presiding other what Habermas called the public sphere. Adding to the process of privatisation adduced by Hammad the additional process of publication, which is not simply the reversal of the former, we attempt to characterise the peculiar potentialities of urban space. Urbanity will emerge as a scene on which the gaze, well before the word, mediates between the sexes, the classes, the cultures, and other avatars of otherness.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • coffee houses, village square, boulevard, modernity, stages of civilization, trajectories, time geography, urbanism, semiotics
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlace and location III: The city — topias and reflection
EditorsVirve Sarapik, Kadri Tüür
PublisherEstonian Academy of Arts
ISBN (Print)9985-9465-0-2
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch

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