Shopping in the Public Realm: A Law of Place

30 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2010


Through a case study based in Bristol, this article explores how the ‘law of place’ has transformed multiple heterogeneous city centre spaces into a single homogeneous and commodified privately owned retail site. Drawing on de Certeau, Lefebvre, and humanistic geographers including Tuan, the article explores how law facilitates spatial and temporal enclosure through conventional understandings of private property, relying on techniques of masterplanning, compulsory purchase, and stopping up highways. It suggests that the law of place draws on binary spatial and conceptual distinctions to apparently separate places from spaces, applying different legal rules either side of an often invisible boundary line. The article questions this legally facilitated spatial and conceptual enclosure, particularly as it restricts spatial practices within the public realm. It concludes by rejecting an urban ‘right to roam’ as insufficiently transformative, calling for a broader interpretation of Lefebvre's ‘right to the city’ instead.

Suggested Citation

Layard, Antonia, Shopping in the Public Realm: A Law of Place. Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 37, Issue 3, pp. 412-441, September 2010, Available at SSRN: or

Antonia Layard (Contact Author)

Bristol Law School ( email )

Bristol Law School
Wills Memorial Building
Bristol, BS8 1RJ
United Kingdom

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