Urban public sports facilities: social infrastructure and the public life of cities

Layton, Jack;


Urban public sports facilities: social infrastructure and the public life of cities.

Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), University College London (UCL).


Layton 2022 Urban public sports facilities.pdf
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Access restricted to UCL open access staff until 1 July 2023.

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Parks and playing fields, swimming pools and skateparks, tennis courts and gyms; these are spaces that create the affordances for people to pursue amateur sports and fitness practices. This thesis aims to develop a conceptual and theoretical vocabulary for understanding these kinds of spaces and the contribution that they make to the public life of cities. The thesis develops an infrastructural approach to the geography of public life. Drawing on the work of Eric Klinenberg (2002; 2018), the thesis explores how the concept of social infrastructure can help geography and urban studies negotiate the ‘impasse’ of research on public space (Koch and Latham, 2012: 515; Latham and Layton, 2019a). This argument is developed through three different case studies. The first case study explores the breadth, depth, and texture of social life supported by public space through a study of the amateur Sunday league football played at the Hackney Marshes. The second, looks at the heated 50m lido at London Fields, unpacking the complicated politics of provisioning required to add social infrastructure to the urban landscape. The final case study, Finsbury Park, unfolds in two parts. Part one explores how parks are made public through their use as social infrastructure. And part two, uses social infrastructure as an evaluative frame to navigate the dispute around whether or not the park should be used to host music festivals. Read together these cases demonstrate a distinct approach to the geography of public life and the way in which public life coalesces around a network of spaces and facilities that support different kinds of uses. Animating this thesis is a commitment to conducting research in a prospective register, with an underlying aim to develop more-than-critical ways of studying cities to help make them more equitable, fulfilling, and engaging places to inhabit.

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