In the realm of design, we often talk about ensuring that there are enough public spaces to serve a community. We discuss the need for public parks so that people have access to outdoor spaces. We think about public transportation, and how our dwindling reliance on cars will help to ensure that we have a healthier planet. But what about the public spaces we lack? What happens when we don’t have enough public restrooms?
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In the book Design of Childhood, architect and researcher Alexandra Lange states that children were considered nonpersons throughout almost the entire history of ancient and modern architecture, being excluded from the process of creating urban and interior spaces. This process has caused and is still causing several problems when children reach adulthood, since these children grew up being constantly watched by fear of movement and the eyes of adults.
This article was originally published on Common Edge.
In October 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions, thousands of people in Australia and in many other cities in the world started to occupy public spaces. In Sydney, where I live, this occupation took place in Martin Place, appropriately enough right outside the Reserve Bank of Australia. This widely publicized protest was an attempt to promote a pro-democracy, civil liberty, social justice message, and to protest against corporate greed and economic inequality.
All of which begged a central question: Was it an occupation of our public space, or was it a reclamation of our public space from governmental and corporate dominance?
Recently, the city of São Paulo witnessed two events involving spaces that were previously public and are now under private concession. The already renowned Virada Cultural Paulistana took place again after the initial years of the covid-19 pandemic, and had as one of its stages the new Vale do Anhangabaú. In addition, the Pacaembu complex - which recently ceased to be a public facility, became a concession and has been undergoing a series of renovations and transformations - hosted the ArPa Fair, an event that brought together a series of important galleries for exhibition, purchase and sale of artworks. Despite the different nature of these events, their processes arouse reflections upon the privatization model we are experiencing in cities today.
In the 1970s, in Berkeley, California, a group of disability rights activists called the Rolling Quads began dismantling curbs and improvising sidewalk ramps, demanding access for wheelchair users. But what people did not expect was that wheelchair users would not be the only ones to benefit from the intervention. Soon, pedestrians with baby strollers, heavy suitcases or simply with reduced mobility started using the ramps. Likewise, a gender-inclusive city works better for everyone. A city where all gender minorities of different ages and abilities can move around easily and safely, participate fully in the workforce and public life, live healthy, sociable and active lives, is a city that improves everyone's lives.
Humane cities center around the relationships between people and places. Communities thrive on shared resources, public spaces, and a collective vision for their locality. To nurture happy and healthy cities, designers and the public apply methods of placemaking to the urban setting. Placemaking—the creation of meaningful places—strongly relies on community-based participation to effectively produce magnetic public spaces.
While walking through the city, have you ever felt afraid to be yourself? As strange as the question may sound to some, it is a reality for most LGBTQIA+ people, who at some point have been victims of hostility when they were noticed performing outside the "heteronormative standards" of public spaces. If violence comes from social layers that go beyond the designed space, this does not exempt the importance of thinking about projects that can integrate the physical sphere and insert a symbolic or representational factor to include and educate its citizens. This is the case of Homomonument, which for more than three decades, has become a platform for queer celebration and protest in the heart of Amsterdam.
The Sveta Nedelya Square Competition in Sofia, Bulgaria unveiled that the proposal presented by Studio Fuksas was selected as the winning project. 6 other international teams reached the final stage of the contest, including One Works, Maofficina, Cracknell, Studio Wilmotte, Paola Vigano, and AI Architects LLD, CLAB Architettura, Yuri Sheredega, Dina Dridze, Evgeniy Shirinyan.
The City of Sydney has chosen Adjaye Associates and contemporary Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd to design a new public square, plaza building, and public artwork. The project attempts to uncover the lost history of the site, reconcile cultures and define identities.
OMA revealed the KUBE, an installation located in front of the main entrance of K11 MUSEA, on Hong Kong’s waterfront. The multi-functional installation creates an urban landmark, amidst the dense skyline of the city, through very simple yet engaging geometry.
The 3rd International Placemaking Week is an intimate, four-day-long global gathering of public space practitioners, researchers, and advocates that combines hands-on learning, public space activations, and innovative social events. Sign up before the regular registration rate ends on August 30!
Normally the efforts of the construction industry are aimed to design permanent and durable spaces. However, on some occasions creating temporary spaces can be of great help, not only when providing fast assembly infrastructure after the effects of a natural disaster, but also when activating residual or abandoned spaces in our cities. To exemplify the potential of these interventions, we present thirteen successful temporary public spaces.
The largest park project in the United States is underway at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, North Carolina. The city purchased the Dorothea Dix campus from the State of North Carolina in 2015 with the intent of creating a great destination park in the heart of the community. This year, Raleigh City Council adopted the Dorothea Dix Park Master Plan, and now an implementation plan is underway for Phase 1. Designed to span decades, the creation of the 300 acre park will include the site of North Carolina’s first mental hospital.
Join us for the release of Field Guide to Life in Urban Plazas.
The guide outlines a research effort focused on New York City, the primary location of urbanist William H. Whyte’s “Street Life Project,” which formed the basis for his seminal book and film The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980). The new guide seeks to understand how different types of public spaces have changed some 40 years later. What’s changed about how people use the public realm, and what makes for successful spaces?
The project looks at 10 plazas in Manhattan constructed or renovated in the last 15 years,
The 45 million CHF (44.7 million USD) transformation project is the first publicly-funded large facility in the Kleinbasel district, and will unite and unlock two previously disconnected and enclosed spaces on the Rhine River. The 9,000 sqm project by the Swiss firm is currently under construction and is expected to be complete in 2021.
Urban design is a branch of design intimately related to urban planning and landscape architecture; it focuses broadly on interpreting the form and public space with physical-aesthetic-functional criteria. Different experts in the field such as Jane Jacobs, Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, Jaime Lerner, Jan Gehl, Kevin Lynch have devoted themselves to studying the needs of urban societies within the common spaces to give adequate responses to different contexts. These questions are renewed with new generations and the public space is transformed according to technological advances but what always remains is the sense of belonging of these sites that are only successful when users adopt them as own.