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

WhatsApp Chat with Professionals

A professional often thinks in the existing structures from practice, in defined tasks and ditto responsibilities. Students think beyond. It is one of the reasons that students and professionals have been linked to each other during a parallel running professional design study and master studio, called ‘The City of the Future’.
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Mobility and Urban Development

Participants of the 2019 summer school will explore interdisciplinary approaches towards a sustainable integration of designing disciplines for smart urban mobility and the new urban development area Haven-Stad in Amsterdam. They will deal with the following themes: the role and function of smart urban mobility, including mobility as a service (MaaS) and emerging mobility options; travel behaviour of a growing number of users; sustainability challenges and fairness in transport planning; public and semi-public spaces (and social dynamics therein); exploration of alternative, marginal and emerging social uses of urban developments as meeting places and culture; urban integration in the overall mobility system; the interface between architecture and infrastructure with the urban fabric; programming of future transport nodes and the accessibility to and from such transport hubs of all types of smart mobilities (e.g. conventional public transport, shared mobility, autonomous taxis, etc.).

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Moving and Meeting in the Boston Metro

In a flying visit to Greater Boston, particular urban design themes related to the city of the future have become manifest once again. On the one hand, thoughts on infrastructure and public space need to be interrelated. People move in various ways, yet the faster they move (most likely by individual or collective transport), the less exchange between them will happen. Although highways and rail tracks increase accessibility and connectivity, and are of extreme importance for the metropolis, it is known that these bundles may cause barriers for those present locally, on both sides to meet and greet. The impact of the Central Artery tunnel project and Rose F. Kennedy greenway on the Boston downtown waterfront is a classic example in showing the importance of designing public places and creating walkable space in a dense urban development. Pedestrian spaces, preferably supported with undergoing public transit or smart hubs alike, is only not less space consuming, but also serves the gathering of people in a better way, hence it serves coincidental exchanges between them. The images of a ‘before’ and ‘after’ the dramatic transformation are a clear witness of this. The same is true in the recently developed business improvement districts. In a opposite way the surplus of fast lane infrastructure generated a lack of public place thus human exchange. The transit hubs of the North and South Station areas may be multi-layered centrality hubs which easily could follow the same strategy, yet here little of this is visible here. Current transformation may be just a first step in improving the stations’ premises. With their high potential in the public spheres, they will be definitively the next challenging urban transformation areas in need to be directed by the City. On the other hand, the City as the public government is not alone in this. Other non-gov stakeholders and pro-active citizens join in the urban development too. Historic Washington and Summer Street areas show what can be the impact collaborative improvements and community development. In fact every citizen has impact simply by being present in the city. People are the prime actors in the urban networks and physical systems. They make the urban space public. It is omnipresent when one would simply walk from School-Franklin, Bedford West, and Park Plaza to City Hall, and trace whatever they do and sense in the city. It adds another perspective to future intervention areas.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Maurice Harteveld

Boston, 15-17 May 2018
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA)
Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD)

City of the Future Competition

Making Cities in Times of Major Transitions

On January 10, 2018, our research ‘The City of the Future’ has starts. This study explores new ways of city making by using five test locations of 1 x 1 km in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven (five most populated cities in The Netherlands). We question how we can interrelate urban development, whilst urban design, planning and engineering, to upcoming challenges like shifts in transport, energy transition, circular economy and other system and network innovations, in times of the next generation of densification.
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Exploring Metropolitan Design

The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS), the Delft Deltas, Infrastructures & Mobility Initiative (DIMI), and the International Forum on Urbanism (IFoU) joined Delft University of Technology in the organisation of the interdisciplinary 2017 Summer School:‘Making the Metropolis: Exploring Interdisciplinary approaches in Metropolitan Design Engineering’.


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