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

Courses run Online On-Distance

In-class on-campus settings have been cancelled due to the situation induced by the COVID-19 virus. Participants of the courses have been distributed over a wide variety of time zones (from -11h to +8h). As a consequence, the graduate course on ‘People, Movement & Public Space’ and graduate design studios on ‘Architecture and Urban Design’ and ‘The City of the Future’ run fully online and on-distance for its 100 registred Delft students and exchange students. This includes an on-demand video lecture series and small weekly assignments that go along. Remote education includes sharing info, presentations, student peer-review, and, in the studio, tutorials, workshops and whiteboard sessions.

The course on ‘People, Movement & Public Space’ provides an overview of vested theories and cutting edge applied research on people’s movement, urban vitality, and public space. This includes seminal works and continues by updating understanding by today’s challenges. The role of citizens and designers in shaping vibrant urban public space is explored through readings, film, and active discussions among participants. The course material, provided in a virtual learning environment, comes alive through active discussions and the direct application of theories in analysing real urban settings.

In the interdisciplinary Master’s design studios, participants discuss and overlap their updates and translate this to urban analytical approaches in a group setting. These approaches are presented to peers and a broad team of interdisciplinary supervisors at least twice a week. The collaborate focus is particularly on the consequences of urbanisation for the major foundations of the city of the future – urban infrastructure and public space –, and with this focus, the ultimate aim is to envision an illustrative and inherently experimental design within the larger set of visions produced by fellow students. In these designs, students and staff are interested on one hand to the urban intervention in the built environment and its effect on architecture, and on the other hand to the architectural treatment of the city and its effect on urban design.

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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Fluid Urbanism

Should dwelling options be re-conceived in the city of the future? Are the urban fabric and its public spaces more fluid in the future thanks to the advantages of emerging and new techologies?

Sharon Wohl, assistant professor in Architecture and Urban Design at Iowa State University, examines the creation of housing as a more nimble, flexible component: one capable of deploying to different sites and atmospheres, while simultaneously providing more broadly distributed access to amenities that otherwise remain limited to the privileged few. These ideas are operationalised through a speculative case study: a mobile dwelling architecture that can be deployed to various sites across the city – each being characterized by particular ‘niche’ offerings. Here, rather than dwelling units being considered as static entities within the urban fabric, they are re-considered as nimble, deployable agents – able to relocate to different sites and settings in accordance with different parameters that are customized through individual cost-benefit analyses and feedback dynamics. Accordingly, over time, bottom-up, self-organizing ‘niches’ of fit inhabitation emerge. The talk associates this kind of designed urban environment with the dynamics of complex adaptive systems – where emergent global features arise from the bottom-up. Here, a new kind of ‘swarm’ urbanism is deployed: one adjusting over time in response to atmospheric variables.

(closed discussion in The City of the Future Lab, TU Delft)