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

Ethical and Social Values in COVID-times

Design for Values in Times of COVID19
Creating Responsible Innovations respecting Ethical and Social Values

The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting people and businesses hard. The attempt to protect people from this life-threatening disease has changed how we perceive the role of governments, businesses, and all other stakeholders in providing safe housing, sanitation, workplaces, and safe public space to name a few. These are issues architecture, urban design, and spatial planning must address.
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Public Space under COVID-19

TU Delft Joins ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’

Social distance dictated by COVID-19 health emergency affects access to public space and with it creating a range of impacts on different levels. While global lockdown is destabilizing economy and challenging country leaders, at the human level the pandemic is generating isolation and loneliness, with a significant raise of helplessness and fear. Everyone is asked to stay home and rearrange daily routines and work activities in indoor domestic spaces, looking at the world from behind a window. People are dying alone, numbers are increasingly high. Outdoor physical activities are no longer allowed. Many governments seem to lack proper strategies to manage the risk of massive contagion. In the Global South the poor living in informal settlements have scarce access to water, washing hands could be dangerously impossible.

What is the future of public space? How can we face this unprecedented emergency and get prepared to its consequences, in specific regard to health disparity? Will public space restrictions stay in place after recovering from the pandemic?
Is there something we can do now all, together? Delft University of Technology, a worldwide recognised leader in the field of urban design and public space, unites with more than twenty universities globally in the ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’ initiative. DDfV researcher Maurice Harteveld explains:

“We observe differences in behaviour in public space under the current circumstances. Differences that relate to different societal and personal priorities based on different social and personal values. Altered patterns in our cities are updating the way human behaviour informs urban design, hence the design of public space, but foremost the emerging differentiation in values effect in the design choices we are making in the near future.”

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Public Space in the Entrepreneurial City

New public spaces have emerged in the entrepreneurial city. Their existence relates to entrepreneurial action of public governments, of the people, inhabitants of the city, and of entrepreneurial alliances of civic actors. The entrepreneurial way of governmental action led particularly to new spatial conditions and typologies as governments delegated the responsibilities for the production and management of public space to private actors. This extended the debate to the city’s public space in its ubiquitous shopping malls and private residential estates. Secondly, the opportunities which the city offers for the entrepreneurial contributions of general citizens, migrants, and refugees, relate to its public spaces too. Characterised by the proximity of mixed land-uses and flexible building typologies, as well as a well-connected street network and high density, the new urban typologies, effecting public space in their socio-economic nature, are found in many places, using the same models concerning citizens initiatives and popular action. Lastly, new emerging alliances of actors form the relationship of the ‘entrepreneurial city’ and public spaces. These alliances of civil society groups comprise old and new NGO’s, academics and activists, and start-ups of social enterprises launch own initiatives to co-designs alternative community spaces, more affordable and communicative workspaces, and build capacities. Such trends can be seen in cities worldwide too and start to create new forms of public spaces, which facilitate social interaction while creating more micro-economic opportunities.

Read full editorial online:
Maurice Harteveld and Hendrik Tieben (eds) (2019) ‘Public Space in the Entrepreneurial City’, In: The Journal of Public Space (Special Issue), 2019, Volume 4, Number 2, pp. 1-8
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African Public Spaces?

What is public space in African? Does it exist as we may presume? At the current, we are analysing and comparing urban life and presumed public spaces in selected segments of four African cities to map what we know about these cities. It is a first step in deepening cross-cultural understanding: An exiting start of a new exiting scientific journey along Dakar in Senegal, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Maputo in Mozambique, and Lusaka in Zambia.


Image by Vaggy Georgali
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The Entrepreneurial City

‘The Entrepreneurial City’ is the theme for the 10th conference of the International Forum on Urbanism (IFoU). Nine conferences have been held in various countries across the world. In face of global and local environmental, social and economic challenges, the conference brings together international planners and designers to deliberate on theories, design and practices related to the entrepreneurial city. The conference will be hosted by the School of Architecture of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on December 14-16, 2017.
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Public Space for all Nations

Good public spaces enhance community cohesion and promote health, happiness, and wellbeing for all citizens.

It has been with this quote that UN Habitat launched the Global Public Space Programme in an aim to improve the quality of public spaces worldwide. Of course, without doubt, the programme stands for a crucial challenge to make our urbanised world better, but what to do? The ideas on this have been matured and agreements seem to saturate the scope at the recent Habitat III conference held last week in Quito. A list of final set criteria is emerging, but this cannot mean that we’re done… By no means this listing will work if stakeholders do not accept that people gather on a variety of places around the globe, in a variety of cultures, hence not just in those urban spaces which are created by Western idealists’ minds: publicly-owned outdoor space.
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UN: Public Spaces for All

Happy World Habitat Day!

The purpose of World Habitat Day, October 5th 2015, is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns. This year the United Nations chose the theme ‘Public Spaces for All designed to live Together’ as very relevant for the Habitat Agenda.

World Habitat Day 2015

The objectives of World Habitat Day 2015 aim to raise awareness about the need for well designed and managed public spaces and streets. Great to see that one of the key themes of my research group Design of Urban Fabrics takes centre stage also for UN Habitat.
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see:
Urban October: World Habitat Day
UN-Habitat – United Nations Human Settlements Programme
United Nations Office at Nairobi