Matter – Space – Change

When reasoning our material world emerged in cities, ‘matter’ was first to question. This is obviously what we see and what we can handle. This shapes our urban environment. Yet, in an arcadian search for beginning, origin, or first cause the lens was put on finding primordial substance; ‘arché’ (oersubstantie, urstoff, …). This informed the search to actuating principles (as a cause) in Aristotle. The subsequent cosmic search towards the genesis and structure of our world introduced the concept of a material substratum, an interval considered to be invisible and unshaped: ‘khôra’, chora, or space. The territory of the Ancient Greek polis outside the city proper. In Politeía, Plato relates it to the just city and just (hu)man. In these pioneering thoughts, public space is found. Continuously echoing today in understanding chora as a place of being a being or mediating between sensible and intelligible, it also introduced change… Public space isn’t static. People move, societies transform, humans age, generations follow…. This effects our thinking on public space.

Who owns the public space?

Join the online symposium ‘Matter – Space – Change’ on 23 April 2021.

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Watching back, Looking forward

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.

Public Spaces for Domestic & Local Life

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

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

Beyond the Pandemic

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.

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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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Imagination Competition

‘Stiftenstrijd’, the Battle of the Markers

Young urban designers, landscape architects, planners and other spatial designers battle on 1 June. They translate a progressive vision into a strong design for a case in the Netherlands in just one day – Helped by established professions, they do so not with words, but with images, and using the marker and sketch as an instrument!
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Places of Being and Eternal Paths

Magic Lanes in Hong Kong displays an inspiring community-design project that aims at turning a street into a place for stimulating vibrant urban life, which is rewoven with the present contemporary social fabric. By mapping current use and envisioning potential use of urban space by local residents, the project has set a base for real-life experiments. These experiments highlight the spatial assets people own by nature. In responding to the rapid urbanisation of this early-developed neighbourhood, the project it encourages their participation in the street. Located at Sheung Fung Lane (常豐里), the space used to be an empty concrete urban space characterised by outdoor stairs and blind facades of the neighbouring parking garages, and foremost no people actually staying there. With this project, people have entered a process of place re-making. It seems the essence of what is a ‘li’ (里), because next to its contemporary connotation of ‘lane’, this notion is used more accurate as ‘place’. Yet, also, it is ironically strong because it works with the street name. The notions of ‘sheung’ (常) and ‘fung’ (常) refer resp. to eternal/unchanging and to plenty. As if, magically, a flower pot is always full of living flowers. The project incorporates the ideas of its community members and it facilitates physical changes in this space. If people are present it will be a place again.

一刻 社區設計館,西營盤常豐里2號怡豐閣7號舖
First Community Design Museum;
Shop 7, Yi Fung Court, 2 Sheung Fung Lane, Sai Ying Pun

At the same day earlier, I have also noticed that many streets in Hong Kong are known as ‘toa’ (道). Tao, which has a much longer history, means ‘way’, ‘path’ or ‘route’, and thus is translated simply as ‘road’ today. Philosophically, again de-contextualised, this notion represents the intuitive knowing that life cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept. It relates to the path human beings are on. This path is known nonetheless through the actual living experience of one’s everyday being. This may make the presence of people in space, part of the same endless path we are on, wherever we are.

古之善為士者,微妙玄通,深不可識。
The ancient scholar is virtuous, subtly mysterious, deeply unknown.

or, as we may say at the present:
Once upon a time, those who knew the Way, were a mysterious and subtle people, transient yet profound, tranquil yet utterly unfathomable.
Chapter 15 (第十五章), Dao De Jing (道德經), attributed to Lao Zi (老子)