B1ts of Publ1c Space

As an opening for the Bits of Public Space 3.0 webinar, I have taken the audience along with a short story.

Imagine: You are walking in a public space, and you are using your navigation app to meet at a place, which your friends suggested a few seconds ago on WhatsApp. Your headset is on. Noise is reduced. While walking, you’re traced and tracked; the shortest and fastest route is recalculated continuously, In the mean, a health app may record your cycles, Spotify remembers your music preferences, many other web-data fuel the algorithms, …and synchronically all kinds of devices around you sense your environment too. Every detail is collected for third-parties. Also webcams and what looks like cctv register where you are. They monitor your moves and avoid the unexpected to happen. This morning, the weather app has announced rain. Indeed, while clouds make it shimmer, your smart screen illuminates, and lamps turn on.

You’re still walking… People don’t walk close. This makes you think of what you have read this morning: In some cities, drones are measuring social distance, today, and if too close, through image recognition big brother sends you a fine. – In the mean, a car is passing by smoothly. Your mind links it to the lecture on self-driving vehicles. They are keeping distance automatically… “Who is behind the wheel, btw?” You can’t see. Humanoids, perhaps…? Anyways.

Back to your walk. You have to pay attention for a minute to the surrounding, while you are crossing a street. (Small sensors, have made traffic lights turn green for you.) You are starting to be curious to the place where your friends are waiting. They have been involved in the redesign of this meeting space. Some years ago, one would outline public spaces with computer-aided design. You remember how outcomes have always been presented in ‘sunny’ artist impressions. But, during its realisation, budget restrains always made such a plan somewhat more realistic… Today is a different world. Tools are innovating, and include components ranging from environmental analysis to robotic control. The old outlines may still work… Yet, simulations of human behaviour in space helps to understand complexity. The design of public space can be informed more accurately by our updated models, and digital twins. Automation and print-on-demand can still make old dreams happen. You have seen new video presentations of the place, where you’re heading to, on the internet; they are quite realistic. You’re convinced as a designer, your imagination benefits the people, but alike your friends, nobody is alone in design. Online meetings are integrating viewpoints of other experts and novice users. Webinars are bringing people, ideas, and living rooms, closer together. It may be enriching. Yet, the design of your friends may never be finished. Invitations by Zoom, Meets, Facetime, Webex, Slack, Trello, Miro, Messeger, or Teams are following up. #multionline #haveitall – Also, participatory platforms have invited as many users as possible, to join VR sessions and visit the augmented space, to be. Some of the users have replied and have worked within the framework of your friends, their concept of the future. But for some it was not enough… On Insta, some users have found a better idea. As pro-active citizens, they have organised themselves on social media, via transnational networks and microblogging they have got more inspiration. Tutorials have helped them to learn the trick. Public space design changes in a kind of grassroots development, including peer-2-peer exchange of probably two unfamiliar neighbours. The one simply likes gardening, the other orders always outdoor stuff on discount pages. The pro-active group of users co-create and make the space theirs.

Thoughts fade away; You’re still walking…. Happy you. You are almost there, at the meeting place, where everybody seems active. You see your friends coming near. It’s a really nice place. Not as slick as you thought before, but you like it! “We would have liked to introduce a moving beam here…” on of your friend says: “People would love to sit on such a thing, really.” “It adjusts its position and form in accordance to their moods and likes”, the other adds… – You reply dry: “This bench works for me too”. While you are scanning the surrounding facades for heritage details, your friends starts to discuss hyperrealities, and phygital spaces …endlessly. In the mean, you are distracted by a piece of planting in front of you. It is a bid unorganised, and it seems organically grown, obviously added by the community. It looks like one of those greens, which you must have seen in ‘Spaceship Earth’, the movie, which you screened on your laptop, pay-per-view, during the opening night of the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam, last month. After a long chat on the ‘future on being’, you really want to leave again. Your eyes are dry and your mind is tired. You are suggesting to play more together next time and relax a bit. You have heard that they have launched a brilliant new ‘massive multiplayer online role-playing game’ Then everybody leaves, and walks away

This is the end of my story…

What do you think: How have you listened to the story: Have you been walking and talking in reality? Or was it your avatar in cyberspace? Near everything in this story is out there. It affects your profession everyday as an designer. Everything is existing as real space as well as virtual space

This story is recorded with a live audience via YouTube on Friday, November 5th, 2.00 – 9:00am CET. – The webinar has been part of the initiative the POLIS Urbanism and Landscape Architecture Week, of Polis

After one Year without Public Space

Wrapping up a challenging year with a final online 2-day symposium ‘2020 A Year Without Public Space: Reflections & Outlook’ to reflect and plan ahead for 2021, particularly in the aspects of Cities & Health, Digital Public Space, Innovative Approaches & Creative Practices, and Campus as Public Space.

2020 passes in a blink. COVID-19 completely changed our world, our work, our school, and our daily life routine. COVID-19 also changed the public space where we for the first time have to stay away with during global lockdown, spaces where we perhaps took for granted for joyous gatherings, block parties, after-school hangouts, parks where we share experiences, exchange a thought, bump into neighbours and colleagues, have become cold spaces for disseminating hygiene items and food supplies, testing cases, or otherwise deserted and fenced off. Yet, at the same time, new spaces emerge, bike lanes, pedestrianized zones, pop-up installations, eateries and street stalls have found their ways in many cities and administrations. Coming to the end of 2020, we feel that now it’s the time to look back, reflect, and plan ahead.

2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic – Reflections & Outlook
International Symposium
6-7 November 2020
register at: www.publicspace-covid19.com

Please be welcome at one of the sessions on Day 1 and Day 2, and particularly to the roundtable discussion and closing remarks.
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Domestic Public Space

If the current period teaches us, as colleagues, anything explicitly, it is that we must take account of a changed way of thinking on public space and housing. This shift presents us with a major challenge when it comes to further densification of the city. The existing urban fabric needs revision, even in areas where there is no increase in density. Public space is becoming more homely, and houses are becoming workplaces, so partly more public. We will pay more attention to the immediate living environment: the space in the vicinity.

Read the article in Dutch:
Harteveld, Maurice (2020, October) Huiselijke Openbare Ruimte. Ontwerpen aan Plekken Nabij. In: Ruimte + Wonen. #3/2020 Thema Publieke Ruimte, 101e Jaargang, Nummer 3, October 2020, pp. 72-79

Ruimte + Wonen is a Dutch magazine and knowledge network for spatial professionals and housing experts, originated from the magazines S+RO and Tijdschrift voor de Volkshuisvesting. Go to ‘Ruimte + Wonen’ membership

Among Academic Avatars


The opening of another academic year, but – in 2020 – Delft students, academics, and others met in a replica virtual campus while searching for the TU Delft flames in a game.

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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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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Approaches to Value Dynamics

The theme of this playground meeting has been ‘value dynamics’. We have touched upon questions like: How to deal with value dynamics when designing for values? How can we successfully operationalize values to inform design decisions, whilst anticipating possible value changes? How can we make our designs able to adapt to value changes in society? How does the theory apply to specific application areas, such as architecture and urbanism?

Two pitch presentations have kickstarted interdisciplinary discussions:

Design for Changing Values (ERC granted research project)
by Ibo van de Poel

Historical and Spatial Approaches to Value Dynamics
by Carola Hein and Maurice Harteveld

when:
21 March 2019, 12:00 to 13:30h

where:
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management
Classroom H (31-A1-210)


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Conversations in the Anthropocene

Introducing the Anthropocene
Colin Waters is Secretary of the Anthropocene Working Group of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, the body investigating the Anthropocene as a potential geological time unit. His working group is putting forward a proposal towards the recognition of the proposed new epoch. They started in 2009 and up until last year, they were pulling together all information that was available. “For example the biological changes that have happened are irreversible. Once species are transferred across the planet, you can’t put them in a box and put them back in their indigenous state”, he has explained while being our guest in Delft: “Even things like carbon dioxide, this will last as a signal for thousands of years. Even if we are reducing our carbon emission immediately, we are still looking at emissions which are going to be elevated above natural levels for thousands of years. At the present, there is no indication that we are changing that trend.” The human impact may be like a meteorite impact. At the end of the Cretaceous Period when the dinosaurs became extinct, a spike of iridium (an extra-terrestrial element) changed the conditions on Earth. “You still find a layer of a few millimeters thick which is high in iridium, and we can use that as the basis of the start of the new Paleogene Period following the Cretaceous.” It has been “a state change, a game-changer, to a state which now is very different from what it was before and is not recreatable to a large extent either.” What is our share, as designers?

Architecture is perhaps one that we have not mined sufficiently in the past that can provide information that is new to us and help build the story that we are developing. – Colin Waters

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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)