Private spaces are curious spaces because they can be simultaneously welcoming and exclusive, safe and disconcerting, open and closed, intimate and alienating. How we come to discover private spaces – beyond the comfort (or lack thereof) of our own flats – is an adventure, as it requires leaving the public sphere and entering into a new spatial and social dynamic, one where the rules and expectations are set less directly by the mainstream or mass public and more by individual sensibilities (though these are undoubtedly influenced in different ways by the aforementioned). Private spaces are also potentially very ambiguous and can vary depending on your criteria for what constitutes ‘private.’ Does the space need to be privately owned? Intimately occupied? Is a semi-public space (like a church or restaurant, open for certain hours for specific functions) a private space? What are some private spaces I have unexpectedly come to love and appreciate this semester?
Lucy’s flat. This is where we have Connect group, a Bible Study through my church, every Thursday evening. It is a private space in the sense that it is a flat, rented by four girls, unopen to the public unless let in through a door with a buzzer and then another door with a knocker. It is a home, likely one of the first things to come to the Western mind when one is presented with the idea of private space.
Megan’s kitchen. There are certain rooms within ‘home’ that are more intimate than others, like the bedroom or the bathroom. I’ve become well-acquainted with Megan’s kitchen, where we have spent hours baking pizzas, cakes, and enjoying each other’s company. It’s a space for singing as loudly as we want (considering her flatmates and the hour of day, of course), dancing if we so desire, and having conversations that don’t lend themselves to public settings. It is what I would call a safe, welcoming space – not the least of which is due to the fact that there is always delicious food involved.
c3 Church. Here we have a semi-public space, rented by my church, c3, for use every Sunday and some days during the week for services, rehearsals and gatherings. We share the space with other organizations in that we are not the only ones who rent it, though none of us use it simultaneously. It is a multipurpose space, relatively nondescript until we come in and make it our own. But when we leave, it returns to its blankness so the next user can have the same canvas we started with. ‘The doors of the church are open’ but only when we’re there to open them.
Carrubber’s Cafe. Similar to c3’s space, Carrubber’s is a church and cafe by day that becomes a site for a weekly, Wednesday night Christian Union gathering. The space is not ours, per se, but we use it according to the needs we have for the evening, which always include some sort of food preparation. It is a shared space, but it is not public – anyone is welcome but they know that they are entering not Carrubber’s Cafe but CU’s International Cafe gathering. The building has hours, alarms, and locked doors.
Does the length of occupancy in a space determine the level of ownership one has over it? Does the comfort level of a complete stranger have an effect on how we define private versus public space? Why do we find some private spaces warm in atmosphere and others cold?