Violent cities result from social and economic inequality, which also affects the urban landscape and the way we live. International Day of Non-Violence is observed on 2 October, so we have selected a series of projects to reflect on non-violent ways of using public space.
In 2018, Mexican NGO Seguridad, Justicia y Paz (safety, justice and peace) published a list of the 50 most violent cities in the world based on the rate of homicides per 100,000 citizens. Brazil has 17 of the 50 most violent cities, followed by Mexico with 12, Venezuela with 5, and the United States with 4. Meanwhile, the Gini index, a statistical measure to represent the income inequality within a nation or a social group, shows that the four aforementioned countries, as well as the others in the ranking, all have high coefficients, between 41 and 53, meaning they have a high degree of income inequality among their population. It is important to point out that all these countries were colonized and have been victims of genocide and mass slavery throughout history, resulting in a social structure that marginalizes minorities.
These consequences are visible in different ways in our society, from the lack of access to basic rights, such as education, employment, healthcare, and leisure, to the distribution of land. With an increase in the number of marginalized and vulnerable groups, society has developed mechanisms to expel people from public spaces, creating physical (and also social) obstacles that prevent people from accessing and using these places. In addition, the rapid and disorderly growth of the cities, and urban planning based on favoring highways, resulted in strategies to banish part of the population from public spaces, which are increasingly fragmented and unconcerned about local needs.
The following examples of public spaces treat the population equally, offering a variety of activities, spaces for relaxation, contemplation, contact with nature, shade, and diversity:
The Superblock of Sant Antoni is part of the Superblocks Program, which offers the opportunity to gain new public spaces by transforming spaces that used to be urban highways. It is a people-centered plan that redefines the urban order by creating proximity squares in the chamfer corners and green-healthy streets where previously there were cars.
This project transformed the square into a captivating, dynamic public space with multi-character environments and qualities that are inclusive of different groups of people. Through the strategic design, the project brings people closer to the plants and trees while providing visitors protection from the weather and connecting them directly to nearby neighborhoods.
This intervention on a privately-owned public space within an open-air Retail Street was designed to be imaginative, inspirational, and innovative, attracting customers and enhancing their experience by turning a circulation area into a space to stop and stay.
This project is the result of a partnership between ateliermob and the Residents' Associations of the Prodac Norte and Prodac Sul neighborhoods. After the regularization of the self-built houses, the project focused on public spaces, starting with the construction of an open-air theater for community meetings and also to serve as a place to stay and improve circulation for the residents.
This remodeling of the recreational area at Paprocany lake is another project focused on exposing the values of the landscape and expanding recreational opportunities for the city dwellers by creating different furniture and spaces to stay and contemplate.
The initial motivation for the revitalization was the security problems around the shoreline that surrounds the bus terminal. The project encourages the use of these spaces by the public with the construction of a skateboard park, a playground, and an area for sports.
Located within the Hogares Castera housing unit in the municipality of Tultitlán, the Park consists of a 15m wide by 200m long concrete corridor where various elements constructed of integrally colored concrete are grouped to form recreational spaces.
This project consists of the transformation of a concrete canal into a recreational plaza within a housing unit in Fresnillo, Zacatecas. The area was lacking a walkway so, the project took the opportunity to create universal access while also providing a playground and a promenade below, transforming the space into a meeting place with nighttime lighting.
This project transforms under-utilized spaces of RMIT University’s public realm into a vivid and welcoming place. The warren of back-of-house laneways is stitched together to provide a new focal point to the city campus through the addition of outdoor flexible spaces to improve student amenity.
The Micro Park was designed to regenerate a linear streetscape adjacent to a parking lot into a lively outdoor community park. The main component of the structure is a perforated grey brick wall with integrated seating that serves as a playground for the children and a place for meetings and relaxation for adults.