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.

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

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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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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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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.

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

Resilient Communities | Community Resilience

Short keynote and debate exploring both the idea of resilient communities as well as of community resilience(s). Whereas sociological resilience is defined as the ability to recover from change, alike ecological resilience and technological resilience, community resilience applies to the ability of a specific community to maintain a healthy state in response to similar destabilising influences. This presumes a few simple subsets of abilities, which have been explained during the Peccioli Conferenza. If we know what are community resiliencies, we may know what are resilient communities. Particularly this, more so improving such resiliencies, may be seen as an investment in the human capital.


Peccioli Conferenza, spazi di Fonte Mazzola, 4 November 2019

Stations as Nodes

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Official book launch Stations as Nodes

See also: Metropolitan Stations and Integrated Mobility Challenges

Metropolitan Stations

Places for Change and Innovation

A train station has always been a space for many and it is about time to be approached and designed as such. The urgency is there. Stations have become an intermodal hub with a large crowd being present. From a human perspective, it makes sense: Stations are part of the larger network of public spaces, indoors – outdoors, and interlink other hybrid places and buildings. The more people flock to the city, the more move and stay at stations and/or elsewhere close-by. The role of stations in the network strengthens. More and different people are present. As such, from the observation that the whole is more than the sum of fixed demarcated elements, ever-changing human hubs are perfect settings for place-based innovation in design and by design, because where people move, society changes, and where strangers meet change takes place.

Station as Nodes

Read the article: Metropolitan Stations, Places for Change and Innovation (2018) by Maurice Harteveld (c)

See also: Station as Nodes and Integrated Mobility Challenges

Moving and Meeting in the Boston Metro

In a flying visit to Greater Boston, particular urban design themes related to the city of the future have become manifest once again. On the one hand, thoughts on infrastructure and public space need to be interrelated. People move in various ways, yet the faster they move (most likely by individual or collective transport), the less exchange between them will happen. Although highways and rail tracks increase accessibility and connectivity, and are of extreme importance for the metropolis, it is known that these bundles may cause barriers for those present locally, on both sides to meet and greet. The impact of the Central Artery tunnel project and Rose F. Kennedy greenway on the Boston downtown waterfront is a classic example in showing the importance of designing public places and creating walkable space in a dense urban development. Pedestrian spaces, preferably supported with undergoing public transit or smart hubs alike, is only not less space consuming, but also serves the gathering of people in a better way, hence it serves coincidental exchanges between them. The images of a ‘before’ and ‘after’ the dramatic transformation are a clear witness of this. The same is true in the recently developed business improvement districts. In a opposite way the surplus of fast lane infrastructure generated a lack of public place thus human exchange. The transit hubs of the North and South Station areas may be multi-layered centrality hubs which easily could follow the same strategy, yet here little of this is visible here. Current transformation may be just a first step in improving the stations’ premises. With their high potential in the public spheres, they will be definitively the next challenging urban transformation areas in need to be directed by the City. On the other hand, the City as the public government is not alone in this. Other non-gov stakeholders and pro-active citizens join in the urban development too. Historic Washington and Summer Street areas show what can be the impact collaborative improvements and community development. In fact every citizen has impact simply by being present in the city. People are the prime actors in the urban networks and physical systems. They make the urban space public. It is omnipresent when one would simply walk from School-Franklin, Bedford West, and Park Plaza to City Hall, and trace whatever they do and sense in the city. It adds another perspective to future intervention areas.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Maurice Harteveld

Boston, 15-17 May 2018
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA)
Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD)