This paper is an account of the most enclosed and the most open centres of political power in urban history, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It draws upon both spatial analysis and theories of representation to show how this inversion from the enclosed to the open operated as both a signifier of liberation and a cover for new practices of power. This story raises some general issues in our understanding of the space and power. Urban form, in both its structures and representations, always legitimates the regime which produces it. Yet when ideals such as democracy and liberty are inscribed and represented in urban form and public space, such sites may become potent places of resistance.