Lateral-privatisation of the publics: Hong Kong’s spatial struggles

Gerhard Bruyns, Darren Nel

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Hong Kong is one of the most ‘public’ open space challenged cities in the world. As a result of the city’s ‘patchwork’ planning practices, the privatisation of all space has become a means of control that directly impacts developmental typologies and social mobility. It remains a landscape which is more opportunistic than strategic, resulting in spatial compression for the sake of profitability. Through over privatisation, the multi-utilities of ‘spaces for the public’ constitutes negotiated spatial norms, a process whereby space is re-claimed through tactical means. This paper focuses on how the social mechanises the concept of spatial piracy of accessible (in and exterior) space to define what we term ‘lateral-privatisation’, in the lieu of a civic-spatial relationship. The argument presents two examples that expedite lateral-privatisation, discussing the umbrella movement and weekly takeover of open space by foreign domestic helpers. Conclusions are made by arguing that lateral-privatisation should be viewed as a spatial alternative, an informal design mechanism that advocates socially driven, spatially situated social justice. Through examining ‘by who’, ‘for whom’ and ‘where’, the lateral-privatisation concept positions an alternative model, between the privatisation of cities and the social (re)claims made within dense landscapes that promotes social dis-inclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-279
Number of pages14
JournalUrban Design International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2020


  • High-density city
  • Hong Kong
  • Lateral-privatisation
  • Public space
  • Spatial piracy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Lateral-privatisation of the publics: Hong Kong’s spatial struggles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this