500 Days at Home

Deserted public space in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Image by Maurice Harteveld.

“After working from home for more than five hundred days, our daily lives and rituals have been severely changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, social distancing and other measures have affected everyone’s access to public space and exposed a range of impacts on different levels. Researchers from more than twenty universities explore those impacts in the new open-access publication ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’.

The crisis in early 2020 immediately brought together the global community of experts on the design of public space. Maurice Harteveld (Urbanism) is part of the scientific board of the Journal of Public Space and distinctly remembers how the initiation of lockdown upon lockdown sparked debate: “Chief editor Luisa Bravo was already in lockdown in the north of Italy, another colleague soon followed in Hong Kong. The progressively worsening health situation led to images of abandoned public space. We started to share local insights, forming a global perspective on the issues arising from the pandemic for the current situation of public space. By connecting with UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, this became an opportunity to re-think how cities should be.”Deserted public space in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Image by Maurice Harteveld.

Health Disparity, Public Space Restrictions and the Future of Public Space
Shared online initiatives resulted in experts from across the world exchanging experiences of care, solidarity, entrepreneurship, academic perspectives, artistic interpretations, and creative practices of human resilience. The resulting key learnings from the early stage of the pandemic are encapsulated in the publication. The research addresses questions like how we can prepare for the consequences of this unprecedented emergency, particularly health disparity, but also addresses the impact of public space restrictions. More generally, the learnings reflect on what the future of public space might be.

At first glance, the challenges for each urban region might look different. Harteveld: “I vividly remember how Casper Chigama, a community developer from Zimbabwe gave an online presentation from his car, addressing how the local concerns there were about how social distancing might be achieved in the short term. But in the long term, pre-existing concerns on urban hygiene were the main challenge. Another colleague from New York City, Setha Low, mentioned how, even with urban hygiene relatively well organised, she still noticed disparity in access to qualitative public space between different population groups of the city.” In the end, the solutions to these challenges might lie within the same realm of making public space more recognisable on a local scale. People should not only have access to public space from their own homes, they should also be able to identify themselves with these places. “We stay closer to home, shown by trends like the increase of working from home and online shopping, and the consecutive decrease of commuting and going to the city centre,” explains Harteveld. “We clearly saw this in 2020, but the trend already emerges in the 1980s. Today, that means we need to be able to feel at home within the public space. As designers and planners of urban space, we can actively contribute to the detailing and programming of the public space to make such attachments possible.” Harteveld calls this the ‘domestication’ of public space. Fellow researchers observe the same, also at places where urban hygiene and inequality is of urgent concern. Josephine Mwongeli Malonza mentions for example how neighbourhood streets function as public space in Kimisange, Rwanda. The future of public space is local, equitably accessible, and very much an interesting and continuing challenge for urban designers, planners, legislators, and other city dwellers.”

#500Days @Home
The 500th day at home passed by on Monday 19 July, 2021

Published: 2020: A year without public space July 2021

See: Domesticated Public Space

Domesticated Public Space

Domestication Will Shape Future Public Spaces
A Report from Rotterdam

This commentary aims to provide a window on the future by studying actions, taken to control the spreading of the coronavirus, while obviously affecting public space over a year. What have been the effects on public space directly linked to these actions during the pandemic; what values play a role, and what can we expect for the future? We have seen how immediate responses induced by the COVID-19 crisis influences traveling, gathering, and public life in general. Now, it is time to look further. Having a base-point in Rotterdam and taking The Netherlands as an example, the commentary argues that some shifts in using, appropriating, and experiencing public space will remain. Yet, mainly
those not just being immediate responses to sudden societal change, rather those which
are embedded in long-term change.

Read Open Access Article: Harteveld, Maurice (2020) “Domestication Will Shape Future Public Spaces”, The Journal of Public Space, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 53-66. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v5i3.1379.

[Re]Thinking Cities

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

Inclusive Urban Design

In this introduction video, MaartenJan Hoekstra and Maurice Harteveld introduce the issue of urban design and inequality on the neighborhood level and its public spaces. They look at the theory behind the question “does the increase of social mobility and mixing housing add to the inclusivity on the level of the neighborhood?”

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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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City x Space

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.

Stad x Ruimte / City x Space

Partners:
Centrum voor Ondergronds Bouwen / COB Platform of Subsurface Construction
Departement Omgeving Vlaanderen / Environmental Department of the Flemish Government
Deltametropolis Association / Vereniging Deltametropool

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


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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

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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