Public Space under COVID-19

TU Delft Joins ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’

Social distance dictated by COVID-19 health emergency affects access to public space and with it creating a range of impacts on different levels. While global lockdown is destabilizing economy and challenging country leaders, at the human level the pandemic is generating isolation and loneliness, with a significant raise of helplessness and fear. Everyone is asked to stay home and rearrange daily routines and work activities in indoor domestic spaces, looking at the world from behind a window. People are dying alone, numbers are increasingly high. Outdoor physical activities are no longer allowed. Many governments seem to lack proper strategies to manage the risk of massive contagion. In the Global South the poor living in informal settlements have scarce access to water, washing hands could be dangerously impossible.

What is the future of public space? How can we face this unprecedented emergency and get prepared to its consequences, in specific regard to health disparity? Will public space restrictions stay in place after recovering from the pandemic?
Is there something we can do now all, together? Delft University of Technology, a worldwide recognised leader in the field of urban design and public space, unites with more than twenty universities globally in the ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’ initiative. DDfV researcher Maurice Harteveld explains:

“We observe differences in behaviour in public space under the current circumstances. Differences that relate to different societal and personal priorities based on different social and personal values. Altered patterns in our cities are updating the way human behaviour informs urban design, hence the design of public space, but foremost the emerging differentiation in values effect in the design choices we are making in the near future.”

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Democratic, Inclusive, Agential Cities


This article highlights the dynamics of values in our reasoning on public space. By means of an epistemological study, illustrated by examples in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, it tests the contemporary premises underlying our ways to safeguard the inclusive, democratic, agential city, and, as such, it aims to update our view on public space. The article raises three subsequent main questions: [i] Is the city our common house as perceived from the Renaissance onward, containing all, and consequently are public spaces used by the people as a whole? [ii] Is the city formalising our municipal autonomy as emphasised since the Enlightenment, in an anti-egoistic manner, and in this line, are public spaces owned by local governments representing the people? And, [iii] is the city open to our general view as advocated in Modern reasoning, restricting entrepreneurial influences, and synchronically, is its public spaces seen and/or known by everyone? – Inclusiveness, democracy, and agentiality are strongholds in our scientific thinking on public space and each issue echoes through in an aim to keep cities connected and accessible, fair and vital, and open and social. Yet, conflicts appear between generally-accepted definitions and what we see in the city. Primarily based upon confronting philosophy with the Amsterdam case for this matter, the answering of questions generates remarks on this aim. Contemporary Western illuminations on pro-active citizens, participatory societies, and effects of among others global travel, migration, social media and micro-blogging forecast a more differentiated image of public space and surmise to enforce diversification in our value framework in urban theory and praxis.

Read full article online:
Harteveld, Maurice (2019) ‘Reviewing Premises on Public Spaces in Democratic, Inclusive, Agential Cities, illustrated by Amsterdam’, In: The Journal of Public Space, 2019, Volume 4, Number 2, pp. 123-143

The Journal of Public Space is open access, contents are freely accessible under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY NC).

For the full issue: Vol. 4 n. 2 | 2019 | FULL ISSUE

Editors: Maurice Harteveld and Hendrik Tieben
Managing Editor: Luisa Bravo
Publisher: City Space Architecture / UN-Habitat

People, Movement & Public Space

Improving our ways to urbanise and innovate urbanisation processes are needed in order to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals, hence deliver the Quito New Urban Agenda promise. During the Future Days event, participants renewed the listing of urban topics. They bridge the gaps between academics and practitioner. They have presented much more evidence-based policies at the global level and with local examples and test-beds. And, they generated a better understanding of the driving forces of urbanisation and of the needs for better regulating the processes.

People, Movement and Public Space
In a keynote at the Future Days 2019 event, themed ‘Legacy and Future of our Cities’, I illuminated the interdisciplinary topic ‘people, movement and public space’, in order to understand assembled complexities of cities which go along with this topic. I introduced a four-step approach: First, a network-theoretical approach in the analyses of path systems, aiming to understand the complex dynamic systems of real cities better. Second, the analyses of personal perspectives on these paths apply more a non-linear approach to understand complex trajectories and interactions in reality. Third, engaged with the human-adaptive approach, analysing the psychology of place helps to understand patterns in the evolutionary inter-subjectivity of being in cities. Lastly, by observing public life, understanding the emergence of life in real cities, and non-equilibria, may be understand from a self-organising approach.
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Public Space and Inclusive Cities

How do we make public space that is inviting for all? What is public space in open cities? What can we learn from public space abroad? Three interesting lectures to inspire and to take lessons from. Sharing visions on public space at the HUA in Amersfoort.
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Architecture and the City

The Architecture and the City: Public Realm/Public Building research group of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology focuses on questions regarding the mutual relationship between the city and its public realm. This is a relationship that can only be considered in socio-cultural and economic context. The idea of the public realm here refers to an intermediate ‘space’, which facilitates and mediates between different groups of inhabitants and individuals; the idea of the public realm as the space of (ex)change of ideas, opinions and beliefs of the different groups of users. Therefore, the architecture of the city and its actual qualities form the main framework of this research. Within this context urban blocks, as interface between architecture and urban design, and public buildings are seen as crucial architectural elements. Their functioning and organisation are physically, symbolically, socially and economically fundamental to the city. As such they form a domain both of architectural convention and experimentation. In terms of research and design methods architectural typology, typo-morphology and research-by-design hold a central position in our group’s approach.


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Confronting Views on Public Space

Tom Avermaete and Maurice Harteveld both encourage the architect to take on a socially relevant and culturally related position as safe guarders of the public domain. But what exactly can be the role of the architect in today’s society? Is there an alternative to the modernist position of relative autonomy? Both researchers will give their advice to the architectural profession.

Maurice Harteveld: ‘Design and People, Designers as People’
versus
Tom Avermaete: ‘Public Spaces, Then and Now’

These lectures will take place, on 18 September from 8:45 to 10:30h
at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Room A
Delft

Moderator: Hans Teerds