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.
Exhibition ‘What have we learned?’
Preview on Post-Pandemic Public Spaces
How do you think our the design of public space, thus our cities, will change under influence of the pandemic? The answering of this question has been explored in nine engaging interviews with representatives of the Dutch practice and presented in a documentary. Key players in urban design, at the municipality, active in city-making, and/or working in the public domain differently have given their views. In addition, this question has been leading in a survey given to undergraduates and graduate students of our faculty, as well as to a few students in other programmes concerned with the public space (like human geography and planning, urban studies, and metropolitan analysis design engineering). Stimulated by innovation and creative thinking, a vast majority wants to explore new directions, against those preferring ‘back to normal’.
The documentary is made by Matt van Kessel, Hanlin Stuer, and Olivier Wiegerinck, embedded in the research group on public space of Maurice Harteveld, Birgit Hausleitner, Claudiu Forgaci, Tanja Herdt and Ioanna Karadimitriou. A preview of the documentary is presented on the large screen at the exhibition ‘What have we learned?’, on display during the month of September 2021, in Delft. Please feel welcome to have a break, and watch!
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Architecture
2628 BL Delft
2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic!
new publication of The Journal of Public Space
The Journal of Public Space published ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’. This monumental publication of 280 pages witnesses the year we all lived on social distance dictated by COVID-19 health emergency, a measurement severely affected everyone’s access to public space and with it creating a range of impacts on different levels. Delft University of Technology, as a worldwide recognised leader in the field of urban design and public space, united with more than twenty universities globally to question; how can we face this unprecedented emergency and get prepared to its consequences, with specific regard to health disparity? Will public space restrictions stay in place after the recovery period? Should we just aim to return to a pre-COVID status quo, or for a ‘better normal’? And more generally, what will be the future of public space?
Maurice Harteveld, part of the scientific board, remembers how the situation induced by the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020 immediately brought together the global community of experts on the Design of Public Space; “I remember how the alarm bells didn’t stop anymore in the third week of April. Health situation worsened progressively in China, and a new decree imposing quarantine became in act in Northern Italy. Public space was abandoned there. Without doubt, we started to share local insights and form a global perspective on the issues arising from the pandemic for public space the current situation of public space.” Together with UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, this became an opportunity to collaborate to re-think how cities should be.
As the pandemic was moving across different continents and urban conditions, through shared online initiative public space experts across the world exchanged experiences of care, solidarity, entrepreneurship, academic perspectives, artistic interpretations, and creative practices of human resilience, engaging more than 100 speakers during 20 webinars from May to September 2020, and more than 2,700 registered attendees from over 80 countries, including representatives from UNHabitat. Global impact of the online initiative ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’ has been even broader by counting more than 72,000 page views in that same period. This publication encapsulates key learnings globally from the early stage of the pandemic, which stand relevant to this day when we face squarely the same issues as we step into gradually and navigate the post-COVID era.
Download full issue here
In the spring of 2021, the Delft University of Technology, COB Platform of Subsurface Construction, the Environmental Department of the Flemish Government, and the Deltametropolis Association have started a design study exploring the possibilities of integral and multifunctional use of space within highly densified cities. Design consortia from practice have been invited to choose from a number of cases in The Netherlands and Flanders involving spatial bottlenecks in public space, subsurface, and buildings. Seven teams have already started.
Underground Use of Space as a Game-Changer
Due to the convergence of a multitude of tasks and transitions (energy, climate, circularity, mobility) in ever densifying cities, the pressure on public space is increasing. It is especially today because these cities also have to absorb a large share of the housing assignment, following the aims to preserve the rural landscape as well as to reduce the pressure on the current mobility system. However, how much densification is (still) possible for locations that are already overloaded with functions and programs and where the public space – both above ground and below ground level – threatens to silt up and get stuck?
Current and future space claims require careful consideration of the options for using space more effectively and efficiently, with the aim of increasing the ‘spatial efficiency’ of the city in an innovative way.
In the design study, partners focus on a different view of the organisation of urban programmes and transition tasks while they search for new ways of thinking, patterns, and solutions for integral and multifunctional use of space from the cross-section.
The central question:
How can integral and multifunctional use of public space, subsoil, and buildings within a densified urban environment create space and value that contribute to an attractive and future-proof living environment?
The design study has resulted in various spatial designs with visions of the future and implementation strategies. A number of urban locations as case studies are being worked on, namely Ostend, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Mechelen, Leuven, and Maastricht. For each case study, a multidisciplinary team was selected (in Rotterdam 2) of spatial designers (architects, urban planners, landscape architects), engineers, and the experts required for underground developments such as geo-technicians.
Centrum voor Ondergronds Bouwen / COB Platform of Subsurface Construction
Departement Omgeving Vlaanderen / Environmental Department of the Flemish Government
Deltametropolis Association / Vereniging Deltametropool
All webinars of the ‘2020 a year without public space under the COVID-19 pandemic’ are online.
The Impact of the Pandemic to Street Life, Urban Culture and Beyond
Webinar 4.1 by Maurice Harteveld, published by ‘PublicSpace COVID19’ on YouTube.
Roundtable Discussion and Closing Remarks, as published by ‘PublicSpace COVID19’ on YouTube.
See the transcription of the closing remarks of Maurice Harteveld, including reflections and an outlook beyond, here: Public Spaces for Domestic & Local Life, a slightly adjusted transcription of the opening of the august series of our initiative here: Beyond the Pandemic and read more on the initiative 2020 a year without public space under the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the ‘UN-Habitat State of the World Cities Report 2020 on the Value of Sustainable Urbanization’ has been launched, the international symposium ‘2020 A Year Without Public Space: Reflection and Outlook’ has been an opportunity to look back, reflect, and plan ahead for 2021.
The transcription of the closing remarks of Maurice Harteveld at our initiative ‘2020 a year without public space under the COVID-19 pandemic’, including reflections and an outlook beyond (online symposium on 7 November 2020, 3PM (+ 8UTC)):
2020 – A Year without Public Space has been an impressive initiative. We have seen 20 webinars, engaging more than 100 speakers all over the world, and over another thousand attendees watching the presentations and thematic discussions live. On the YouTube channel, we can see that the numbers of views continuously grow. From May to September; the global community of ‘public space’- experts have joined together. The networks of public spaces have become a world-wide-web. Non-Exclusive!
At the moment, we are online, but our concerns are at the human space, in its physical reality. We keep sharing our observations, in an immense challenge. It is not easy! Under the current pandemic crisis, the global death rate is approaching 1.5 million people; 50 million cases of positive testing. An extremely small minority of countries have not reported any coronavirus cases. Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu seem to be still on the safe side. In contrast, particularly, communities in urbanised areas are infected at large. LA, Miami, and New York City… Rio, and Sao Paulo. Here densities are higher, people live closer together, and thus, transmission may go too fast, & too easy.
My contribution to the round table discussion is not another presentation. Deliberately! Continue reading
The United Nations just launched the ‘UN-Habitat State of the World Cities Report 2020 on the Value of Sustainable Urbanization‘. “COVID-19 has transformed our urban world. However, it does not signify the end of cities. Urban areas hold the key to resilient, green recovery, and building back better!”, Victor Kisob, th assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat states. The United Nations emphasises that we create “value through public space”. This includes interior public spaces, which were closed due to COVID19-induced lockdowns recently. In this case, “local governments must work to provide sanitation infrastructure in all public spaces in order to mitigate the health risk”. Yet, also, “when designed with climate adaptation, mitigation and resiliency, components of cities from buildings to public spaces can create communities that enhance environmental values”. They also enhance social and economic values. “Cities can unlock the intangible value of sustainable urbanization by creating public spaces and opportunities for democratic participation and social inclusion that allow the cultural fabric of urban life to flourish”. And, public space can offer a livelihood for people to be entrepreneurial and take part of labour work. Equality plays a huge role in sustainable urbanisation. “Diversity contributes to the social, economic and environmental value of urbanization through tolerance, integration, and coming together in public spaces.” This includes for instance the representation of the urban poor, migrants, and cultural minorities, hence this should lead to prioritising “their needs in any decision-making process, be it about the urban commons, atmospheric commons, public spaces or resource use”. And, “engage a wider audience – e.g. children and youth – in urban planning and design processes for safe, inclusive and accessible public space.” Everyone should “understand their rights to access public spaces and services”. I would like to add: Our challenge is to contribute to the design of public spaces for everyone.
World Cities Report 2020
Physical Public Space X Virtual Space
Urban designers and landscape architects observe physical public spaces as spaces that are able to accommodate accidental meetings, reveal places’ identity, provide impulsive on-the-spot choices, and allow human-nature interaction through wind or sunshine. However, the recent crisis unfolds the intertwining between physical public space and virtual space. During two days, we focus on the shift of the planner’s outlook on physical public space and virtual space.
Join the webinars!
When: Thursday, November 5 and 6, 9.00am – 6.00pm CET
Bits of Public Space 3.0: Trailer, published by Polis on YouTube
Video credits: Ioanna Kokkona
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
The Impact of the Pandemic to Street Life, Urban Culture and Beyond.
Maurice Harteveld, co-host and moderator of the roundtable discussion with speakers from the Netherlands, from Greece, from France, and from the United States.