The Open UniversitySkip to content

Ambient power: Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and the seductive logic of public spaces

Allen, John (2006). Ambient power: Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and the seductive logic of public spaces. Urban Studies, 43(2) pp. 441–455.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (295kB)
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


In privatised public spaces where people mill around and cross over one another's paths in largely unforeseen ways, one could be forgiven for thinking that power is largely about guards and gates or that it is present through surveillance techniques. This paper puts forward a rather different view of power in public spaces that highlights its unmarked presence. It argues that closure in some of the more recent privatised public spaces is achieved in decidedly modest ways through a logic of seduction. Using the example of a privatised public space at the heart of Berlin's Potsdamer Platz redevelopment, it is suggested that the layout and design of the complex represent a seductive presence that effectively closes down options, enticing visitors to circulate and interact in ways that they might not otherwise have chosen. The suggestive practices, experiences and spaces are laid out for temptation in such a way that closure is achieved by degree, through inclusion rather than exclusion. Power in this instance works through the ambient qualities of the space, where the experience of it is itself the expression of power.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2006 Sage
ISSN: 1360-063X
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Research Group: OpenSpace Research Centre (OSRC)
Item ID: 4275
Depositing User: Users 6043 not found.
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2006
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2019 09:22
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU