Creating Value through Public Space

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

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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Digital, Virtual, and Physical

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
> Registration


Bits of Public Space 3.0: Trailer, published by Polis on YouTube
Video credits: Ioanna Kokkona

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Designs for Boston and Amsterdam

Propositions under Continuously Changing Urban Conditions

Massive urbanisation puts pressure on public space and demands new programmes along with alternative gathering places such as public interior spaces and a variety of forms of collective spaces. Moreover, in the rapidly changing city, infrastructure and mobility remain of vital importance. A co-evolving diversity of programme cannot be planned, but interventions in the city need constantly to be grounded on sharp design approaches to respond adequately to the necessities of the time: While being environmentally sustainable, given the available resources.

In general, infrastructure, mobility, and public life manifest themselves in various forms as carriers of such urban development. Design experiments, as put forward in our new book, show how to work with continuously changing urban conditions, with mobility transforming cities whilst with public spaces taking various forms, with programmes which hybridise, and with new technologies to keep up with the urban dynamics. Given these themes, designs should carry awareness of the inclusiveness and accessibility of various systems and places, facilities, and technologies. Spatially this means questioning how to keep the city open and connected, attractive, and liveable?
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The Impact of the Pandemic to Street Life, Urban Culture and Beyond

We have seen a growing number of people have been hospitalised per day, and people passed away. Both followed the bell curve. Every country faced critical moments when hospitalised totals stressed the capacity of medical care. The uncertainty among the populations grew in that period. Particularly, the impact of the pandemic to street life became visible in those days. Cities locked down, people stayed at home, and shifts in urban culture became visible. Can we place those changes in a longer perspective? Looking back to what happened before, and forecasting what most likely happens beyond 2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The Impact of the Pandemic to Street Life, Urban Culture and Beyond

Image created by Catherine Cordasco.
Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Join the webinar!
When: Thursday, August 6, 2.00 – 3.30pm CET
> Registration

This webinar is part of the initiative ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic‘.
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Architecture in Urban Change

Designers are questioning what architecture of relevance could face ongoing change over a longer period in today’s most dynamic urban areas. Of course, answers are always specific and the search on how to respond to constantly changing urban conditions may be the only issue that is shared in all cases. Yet, still, there must be more commonalities in the wide range of answers. The set of design propositions as presented at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles (ENSA-V) underlines this, while designs display a few recognisable approaches. Projects put the emphasis on the importance of intervening at strategic locations, of programming adaptive and responsive, hence flexible, and of imagining and creating expressions that will enhance public interaction and experience over a longer period. As a guest of the school, I have the opportunity to review these thoughts and discuss emerging approaches with prof Nicolas Pham.

l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles
Champ disciplinaire de Théories et Pratiques de la Conception Architecturale Urbaine (TPCAU)
5 Avenue de Sceaux, Versailles
20 December 2019, 9:30-17:30h

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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Stand up for Public Space

Global Campaign to Support Public Space at the 10th World Urban Forum
on 8-13 February 2020, taking place in Abu Dhabi


Future cities need public space for a more human(e) togetherness!

In August, City Space Architecture launched a global campaign to support public space, inviting global stakeholders to join forces in order to ask the WUF Secretariat to include a clear reference to public space in their Concept Note. The campaign attracted strong interest, with insightful statements from urban experts and activists. After that, the Concept Note has been revised, now public space is included in the document and this is a great achievement.
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Pasáži Renesance

Prague has more arcades than Paris. Still, they are less known. This is unfortunate, because these arcades underlining the identity of Prague and the Czech Republic. This is underpinned particularly during the 1990s arcade renaissance. New arcades have been designed, like Pasáž Jiřího Grossmanna (1995 –1996), Rathova Pasáž (1996), and the redesign Hrzanska Pasáž of 1702-1704 (1996). These projects have upgraded existing arcade systems, introduced new styles, but foremost new hopes… It echoed an update on the Czech Awareness.

Throughout history we have seen this happen in the design of arcades in Prague. This particular study brings us back to the rise of Bohemian identity and unfolds an epistle illuminating an alternative arcade project. As such, the study reframes relations between design of public space and society and provides a way to understand shifts in these.


Pasáže Černé Růže (1936), by Oldřicha Tyla

Pražské Pasáže
Arcade Projects in Prague
Public Buildings | Urban Architectural Design | Contextual Assignment
as projects for people, and projects within Society