Chinese Notions of Public Space

When you cannot find the book you need to understand public space in China, it’s wonderful to see that it is finally written! Wenwen Sun delineates how public space as a Greco-Roman originated concept traversed the urban and architectural cultures of post-reform China, merging and negotiating with the local conditions, and evolved into a new phenomenon in Chinese urban design and architecture. It is hugely rewarding to promote her work!

This research first critically reviews contemporary narratives from Chinese philosophy and sociology, then materials written in post-reform China on the topic of public space. It then analyses various cases in their design and spatial conditions, ranging from ‘shared spaces’ in the areas characterised by urban dwelling and communities to ‘open spaces’ in the central city where strangers mingle and globalisation manifests. By analysing public space as a cultural phenomenon, carrying specific meaning, through specific concepts and designs, this research develops an interpretative framework within which the meanings and transculturation of public space in Chinese urban design and architecture can be understood and elucidates potential for future urban design and architectural practices. Theoretically, it moves beyond the conventional research on public space that is primarily based on Western thoughts, an Indo-European notion, and a Greco-Roman tradition. Practically, it paves the way for future development of the design of public space, highlighting the cultural, social, and spatial dynamics in Chinese cities vis-à-vis the related political, economic, and governmental conditions within the context of ongoing globalisation.

Chinese Notions of Public Space: Transculturation in Urban Design and Architecture after the ‘Reform and Opening-up’ in 1978 Read for free, and order a hard copy here

Designing from the Cross-Section

The Subsurface as a Building Block for the Future-Proof City

The approach to urban transformation tasks is undergoing a major overhaul. After all, there is insufficient space to accommodate today’s major challenges – in the areas of climate, energy, circular economy, mobility and housing. It is high time we learned to look at our cities through three-dimensional glasses and to view the public space and buildings in relation to the subsurface. By tackling tasks from the cross-section (instead of the plan view), new and surprising solutions are brought to the table, which not only lead to an improvement of the living environment but also encourage multifunctional use of space.

Urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture student teams within the City of the Future Lab, and multidisciplinary design teams from practice have set to work in Amsterdam, Leuven, Maastricht, Mechelen, Ostend and Rotterdam. Together with academic and municipal experts, they have developed design propositions and exemplary solutions for city making in times of major transitions, and they have reflected on the importance of the subsurface and designing from the cross-section.

This design research resulted in a publication in Dutch. ‘Ontwerpen vanuit de Doorsnede’is the result of a collaboration between TU Delft, the COB Platform of Subsurface Construction, the Environmental Department of the Flemish Government, and the Delta Metropolis Association.

Ontwerpen vanuit de Doorsnede
De Ondergrond als Bouwsteen voor de Toekomstbestendige Stad

Order here: Donner Bookshop online

Centrum voor Ondergronds Bouwen / COB Platform of Subsurface Construction
Departement Omgeving Vlaanderen / Environmental Department of the Flemish Government
Deltametropolis Association / Vereniging Deltametropool

Beyond Modern Values

Conflicts and Discoveries in the Design of Public Space

This lecture has been part of a course for Ph.D. candidates in philosophy, co-organised by The Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW), and the 4TU Center for Ethics and Technology. The course discusses approaches like value-sensitive design and ethics-by-design, becoming popular over the last decade to integrate values, and other moral considerations in design. The lecture follows upon other presentations which have introduced some of the critical underlying philosophical foundations and issues of such approaches. It discusses what values are, and have been navigating in the urban design thinking on public space and whether, and to what extent, these values have been, and still are dynamic in terms of ‘value change’. The lecture also discusses in more detail the ‘value conflicts’ which go along with the value dynamics in the design of public space, and, philosophically as well as in terms of their design application, it questions the values in themselves.

The Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) – Design for Values 2022

5 – 16 September 2022, with the keynote on 9 September.

See also: Matter Space Change

Design for Maritime Mindsets

How to Design Public Space for Maritime Mindsets? That’s a central question in the new Minor ‘Minor (Re)Imagining Port Cities: Understanding Space, Society, and Culture’.

Waterfront as Environmental Infrastructure

The waterfront is a fragile and thin marginal area where multiple interactions occur between the city and the water. It is not a border or a limit. On the contrary, it is a meeting space, an interchange area, a transition – and tension – between different biological communities. Like all environmental frontiers, the waterfront is an ecosystem with a dynamic and precarious balance. Water-related challenges such as protection from wave motion, and adaptation to multiple conditions (e.g. hydrogeological, health, and environmental risks), albeit relevant, are often addressed in a sectorial way through confusing and ineffective procedures and plans. The centrality that the environment assumes in the transformation processes of the land-water interfaces requires the preparation of a design approach that aims to operate as a device capable of providing a response to social and ecological rebalancing, in terms of resilience as well as energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental safety. Urban design solutions need to consider the availability of resources; social-environmental changes are confronted with the long time of ecological-environmental processes and adaptations. At the same time, targeted interventions correlate with the many ongoing and planned activities in the specific territories.
According to this approach, the concept of a waterfront becomes an environmental infrastructure, overcoming obsolete ideas of waterfronts as purely related to commercial development. The design of a waterfront is incremental and inter-scalar and it considers the risks and socio-ecological environmental fragility of coastal territories as priority themes to trigger urban, and territorial, regeneration.

Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft

September 8, 2022

Matteo Di Venosa (speaker)
Carola Hein (discussants)
Paolo De Martino
Elise van Dooren
Maurice Harteveld

Post-Pandemic Public Spaces

Over the past year and a half, we have attempted to identify and describe the influence the pandemic has had on our public spaces and how this has inspired new ideas for the future thereof. Through research, surveys, and interviews which are presented in a documentary, we managed to document the excitement which was shown towards improving our public spaces during the pandemic. The pandemic has underlined and accelerated the need for change in our public spaces, consequently, this documentary is more relevant than ever. People tend to get used to life easily and revert to old habits. We hope that through this documentary we have a medium to hold on to that reminds us of the importance of our public spaces and the wake-up call we had during the pandemic.

This documentary is part of the research of the Design of the Public Space Research Group, led by  Maurice Harteveld, within the department of Urbanism at TU Delft. Post-Pandemic Public Spaces is about the future of our public spaces and was filmed and produced by Matt van Kessel, Hanlin Stuer, and Olivier Wiegerinck as part of their Bachelor Honours Programme.

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PPPS Episodes

Post-Pandemic Public Spaces is about the future of our public spaces and was filmed and produced by Matt van Kessel, Hanlin Stuer, and Olivier Wiegerinck as part of their Bachelor Honours Programme, under the supervision of Maurice Harteveld, Claudiu Forgaci, Birgit Hausleitner of the Design of the Public Space Research Group, within the department of Urbanism at TU Delft.

List of episodes Post-Pandemic Public Spaces

The first episode of the documentary Post-Pandemic Public Spaces ‘Challenges’ introduces expected paradigmatic shifts caused by the situation induced by the COVID-19 crisis. It extends the discussion on public space, which has been about making cities more sustainable and liveable while working with major transitions. During the pandemic, health has been challenged in addition. Also, new ways of using public space have become manifest. This exposes different claims. Can we continue to use public spaces as we did? Are we reverting to our old behaviour? Do we realise how important public space is? In conjecture with the challenges that already emerged before the crisis, we can question if we shouldn’t reduce traffic, for example, and kick-off from our car addiction? New challenges have an effect on the size, accessibility, and quality of the public spaces and, together with changing human needs, its presence and design remain to be essential in the future.

The second episode ‘Design’ dives further into the challenges in the post-pandemic era and it illuminates possible design solutions. The documentary searches for approaches in which the design of public spaces can be updated and improved. It also questions if there is any one-size-fits-all public space at all. Depending on how and if people can get there, public space are very different as are people. Not all spaces are equally attractive and safe to stay in. From a different angle we may question; who is touched by which place, and how. Differences have become very clear during the pandemics and awareness on this has risen. Public space is also no longer static, but constantly adaptive to new needs. How can we design for this? Can we design for flexibility? Can we release physical design; if so, to what extend? The increasing need for green space is also exemplary for the post-pandemic era; partly grown out of necessity for health reasons, recreational purposes, or simply a lack of space in the house. We will have to design green spaces as a new quiet place, and for outdoor activities like sports, online connectivity in public, and/or just natural climate-adaptive space at the same time.

The third episode ‘Mobility’ follows up on the discussed new ways to approach the design of public spaces and it shines particularly the light on the changing mobility patterns. This includes general strategies to remove cars and give space back to the residents. Yet, induced by the COVID-19 crisis, these approaches move to a shift in commuting patterns: Will people keep working from home? Do they want to spend an hour in the car or on the train for four or five days when there is an alternative in the remote office and on-distance work? Other travel needs emerge, depending on the needs and desires of the different social groups. The pandemic influenced public transport. Many people feared this mode. Trust will have to be regained in order to make mobility more sustainable by traditional means. New forms of individual transport have taken off in addition. Think of micro-mobility, like shared scooters. Thus multi-modal chain mobility seems to increase in importance. The concept of the 15-minute city, in which living and working hybridise and facilities and amenities are nearby, also seems to have made a breakthrough too. Places and mobility are being brought together, in the words of Lior Steinberg. This may resemble the Dutch-rooted idea of neighborhood thought (‘wijkgedachte’), making cities fairly democratic: Everyone uses similar modes of transport; bike use as examplars for the world. Still, also in the Dutch city, pedestrian traffic and social safety need to be improved.

The fourth episode of the series presents the topic ‘Inequality’. In line with last episode, it is important to remember how mobility relates to (in)equality. The measurements taken during COVID-19 outbreak, like social distancing and staying home, has shown once more that not everyone has the same pattern, can have the same pattern, and/or is able to have equal patterns. Public spaces in different neighbourhoods have different qualities. The pandemic has shown that not everyone lives under the same conditions. Not everyone has access to equal public spaces. There is, for example, not always shaded space near the house. Places for stay in general and distances to recreational (green) spaces can differ greatly, as is the safety along the routes not equal. Power structures and distribution of resources, if we define public space along these lines, are unequal almost by definition, and thus access abilities and agency is diverse. This, generates questions: How can we realise a more inclusive network of public space? How can we create a human space, lively at the street level? What public amenities and facilities should we include? Is privately-owned public space a (fair) solution? Can we create common spaces on the roof, for example? What needs to be done in different neighborhoods to contribute to a just city?

The fifth episode presents ‘Behaviour’. With the interviewees, the discussion on inequality is stretched to people’s behaviour in the public space. How has it changed during and after the pandemics and did their perceptions of public spaces change along? City beaches and parks have become popular, while the lack of outdoor terraces, restaurants, or discos has been manifest. Measurements taken during the pandemic have forced a change in our behaviour. While social distancing will be abandoned and masks in general, we seem to have become aware of human vulnerability. Public health will be related to public space again. What more will stay in the future? A lot of people have canceled their sports club subscriptions. Everyone is training outside now. It’s really nice to see all those active people, says Annemieke Fontein; but at the same time, it also takes up space and changes the nature of parks as designed for quiet relaxation. Also in other forms, we can see that the need for connection, and in particular for encounters and meetings, in public spaces has grown. Yet whereas online presence continues to grow, thus new networks emerge and ways to meet change, thus place to meet also change. Communities gather in a wide variety of public spaces. Are new bubbles emerging? When will people come together as a whole? The culture of a place; and of a city will change and develop. Appreciating public space as a daily life environment in the Netherlands has one of the positive outcomes of the pandemics.

The sixth episode of ‘Post-Pandemic Public Spaces’ is the last chapter of the series. The previous five episodes have explored the future of our public spaces. At the end of each episode, key factors are summarised. This final episode concludes the journey by bringing together important lessons learned and setting the agenda for the future design of the public space. Enjoy the ‘Conclusion’!

This documentary is part of the research of the Design of the Public Space Research group, department of Urbanism at TU Delft.

Design-Driven Doctoral Research

The Strategic Partnership CA²RE+ develops a collective learning environment through the evaluation of Design Driven Doctoral Training. Design Driven Doctoral research (DDDr) is taken as a multidisciplinary example of an experiential learning-through-evaluation model, appropriate for identification and promoting relevance of research singularity, its transparency, and recognition, to award excellence in doctoral training for creative and culturally rooted solutions of contemporary design-driven developments. The CA²RE+ project starts in September 2019, finishes in August 2022, and represents a trigger of the CA²RE Conference developments.

As the final to the CA²RE+ series under the themes of observation and sharing (strategies), comparison and reflection (experiences), and reformulation have led to this last event under the theme of recommendation. It provides a platform where both the learners and educators contribute to chartering future recommendations for Design-Driven Doctoral Research (DDDr). To combine the accumulated experience and knowledge in the previous events, the emphasis on the doctoral candidates’ experience and views within the DDDr programmes will play a key role both in the formulation and validation of the future recommendations within the project’s last phase, namely the framework for DDDr.

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Public Health + Public Space

Health is an important societal topic in the Netherlands. In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, healthy living environments reduce diseases, deaths, healthcare costs, and shifts focus from prevention and medicalising on the individual levels to taking care of communities. Still, for example, the air quality in the Netherlands is considered moderately unsafe, resulting in the highest rate of asthmatic children worldwide. The same goes for recordings of diseases related to polluting substances on land and in water. This makes public spaces social determinants of public health. We see similar correlations when it comes to the presence of infectious microbes and parasites, and environmental stress. Especially in world port-cities like Rotterdam unhealthy conditions coincide with unequal socio-spatial patterns. Here the impact on individual health is largely untraceable. Understanding the impact of inherent industrial and human activities on urban areas at the neighbourhood level and crossing it with heterogeneous data sets help us understand the socio-spatial impact of pollution-related and vector-borne diseases on cities. Measuring environmental pollution in public spaces can tell us e.g. more about the impact of air quality on citizens as a group. Statistical time series and cross-sectional data analyses can be applied to generate valid correlations if they are made geo-specific. By using machine learning and AI technologies we cross data on environmental pollution with other heterogenous socio-spatial and temporal data sets. The use of mapping, spatial statistics, and urban narratives including historical data can lead to a better understanding of the lived experience at the local level. Through workshops at the local level and notably in the public spaces of the city, we engage the general public and local decision-makers in discussions on public health using advanced computer models for visualisation. The Rotterdam case study provides insights applicable in other cities internationally.

See: Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) initiative on Public Health and Public Space

Designing Domestic Places

Public space is the place to play, move and meet. This applies to our rich city center with all its shops and restaurants, but just as much to residential areas. But how can we make these public spaces even more attractive for all types of users?

At the beginning of February, students from TU Delft, The Hague University of Applied Sciences, and Inholland University of Applied Sciences developed various ideas for the public space in the Tanthof district. In various teams, the students have investigated how existing routes or routes to be designed can be provided with ‘stopping points’: places where you can rest for a while, look around and chat with other residents.

During this meeting of Delft Design, these design sketches will be briefly explained and we would like to discuss these design sketches with you and, among others, Tako Postma (City Architect of Delft), Eveline Berghout – van der Schee (urban designer, City of Delft), Maurice Harteveld (researcher, Design of Public Spaces, TU Delft), Ben Kuipers (landscape architect) and Flip Krabbendam ( architect) in a discussion about the preconditions for successful public space.

The discussion starts with a lecture on
Designing Domestic Places
by Maurice Harteveld

Afterward, there is an opportunity to chat and view the different designs. This while enjoying a snack and drink.
The challenge is organized by Delft Design in collaboration with the City Deal Kennis Maken Delft, study association POLIS and architect Flip Krabbendam.
 De openbare ruimte is dé plek voor spelen, bewegen én ontmoeten. Dat geldt voor onze rijke binnenstad met al zijn winkels en horeca, maar even zo goed voor woonwijken. Maar hoe kunnen we deze publieke ruimten nog aantrekkelijker maken voor alle type gebruikers?

Begin februari hebben studenten van de TU Delft, De Haagse Hogeschool en Hogeschool Inholland verschillende ideeën uitgewerkt voor de openbare ruimte in de wijk Tanthof. In verschillende teams hebben de studenten onderzocht hoe bestaande of nieuw te ontwerpen routes kunnen worden voorzien van ‘halteplaatsen’: plekken waar men even kan uitrusten, kan rondkijken en een praatje kan maken met andere bewoners.

Tijdens deze bijeenkomst van Delft Design worden deze ontwerpschetsen kort toegelicht en gaan we graag met u en onder andere Tako Postma (stadsbouwmeester van Delft), Eveline Berghout – van der Schee (stedebouwkundige. City of Delft), Maurice Harteveld (onderzoeker, Design of Public Spaces, TU Delft), Ben Kuipers (landschapsarchitect) en Flip Krabbendam (architect) in gesprek over de randvoorwaarden van succesvolle openbare ruimte.

De discussie wordt geopend met een lezing over
Het Ontwerpen van Huiselijke Plekken
door Maurice Harteveld

Na afloop is er gelegenheid tot napraten en het bekijken van de verschillende ontwerpen. Dit onder het genot van een hapje en drankje.
De challenge wordt georganiseerd door Delft Design in samenwerking met de City Deal Kennis Maken Delftstudievereniging POLIS en architect Flip Krabbendam.

The Public Space as Meeting Place
De Openbare Ruimte als Ontmoetingsplek

Prinsenkwartier en online

2 March 2020
open 19.30, start 20.00 untill 22.00

More: Delft Design, City Deal Kennis Maken Delft