Blurring the boundaries between public and private space: the case of the Restaurant Day
“Restaurant Day”, an event created by a small group of people in spring 2011 in Helsinki, has rapidly become an international phenomenon. It is a food festival happening four times a year when anyone can set up a restaurant for a day. Restaurants can be opened anywhere: at home, at the office, on a street corner, in a garden or inner courtyard – only imagination is the limit, as is defined on the website of the event.
In this presentation we explore the Restaurant Day as a way of challenging some general assumptions of appropriate ways to use urban space. Pop-up restaurateurs bring elements of home and private occasions out to the streets, or, as many of them do, they open their homes for strangers by inviting them for a meal. With these actions, they stretch the boundaries between public and private spaces. We will analyse this phenomenon by applying the Nordic concept of “Everyman’s Right”, originally targeted to nature areas, to urban spaces. In the process of updating the concept, we have re-named it as “Everyone's Right”. Based on our photo-walks conducted during recent Restaurant Days, we will analyse some cases where “everyone’s right” is in action and highlight the importance of diversity and creativity in everyday life. When urban spaces are open for various ways of use them – or, for dwelling with them – they become more easy-going and tolerant. With the concept of everyone’s right we propose a new approach to thinking about spatial justice in the city.