The American sociologist Richard Sennett points out the distinctive features of the European city in Shared Spaces.
In May 2012 Shared Spaces spoke with Richard Sennett in London, on the occasion of an interview that the American sociologist conceded to publicspace.org so that his thoughts on public space could be included in the documentary “Europa Ciudad” (Europe City), a co-production of the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) and Radio Televisión Española (RTVE) in which the continuing validity of the European idea of the city is debated. The film, subtitled in English and French, may be accessed online.
In this conversation, Sennett stated that European cities differ from others, in the United States or Latin America for example, inasmuch as they “have a lot more legal self-control over their own affairs”. This, in his view is a result of the influence of their walls, which literally defined a “space of law”. Hence, in his view, the walls encircling renaissance Florence or medieval Barcelona enclosed a space of “the words of power”. For Sennett, another characteristic feature of the European city is that it developed in such a way that its centre was always a space of mixing and meeting, and this contrasts with Peking or Tokyo, where the centre is an empty space reserved for power. He believes that “unlike other places, the centre of the European city has always been public”.