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Public Space: The Latest Architecture and News

Results of the 2014 European Prize for Urban Public Space

00:00 - 5 May, 2014
Results of the 2014 European Prize for Urban Public Space, The Braided Valley / Grupo Aranea. Image © Jesus Granada
The Braided Valley / Grupo Aranea. Image © Jesus Granada

The results of the 2014 European Prize for Urban Public Space have been announced. The prize organized by the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) rewards both the designers and the facilitators (such as councils or community groups) that have contributed to the best urban interventions of the year. The award is given for ingenuity and social impact, regardless of the scale of intervention, meaning that small, relatively unknown practices can rub shoulders with some of the best-known practices in Europe.

See the 2 Joint Winners and 4 Special Mentions after the break

La Lira Theatre / RCR Arquitectes. Image Courtesy of RCR Arquitectes + PUIGCORBÉ arquitectes Masterplan for Marseille’s Vieux Port / Foster + Parners. Image Courtesy of CCCB Islamic Cemetery in Altach / Bernardo Bader Architects. Image © Adolf Bereuter The Braided Valley / Grupo Aranea. Image © Jesus Granada + 7

TED Talk: How Public Spaces Make Cities Work / Amanda Burden

00:00 - 25 April, 2014

Amanda Burden, former animal behaviorist turned New York’s chief city planner, has discovered what makes cities desirable: great public spaces. During her time with the Bloomberg administration, Burden oversaw the fruition of the city’s most transformative public projects, including New York’s beloved High Line. In the video above, she reveals the many unexpected challenges of planning (and maintaining) parks people love, and why it is so important for cities to have great public spaces.

ELEMENTAL Proposes Pedestrian Path To Connect Districts of Santiago

00:00 - 23 April, 2014
ELEMENTAL Proposes Pedestrian Path To Connect Districts of Santiago, © ELEMENTAL
© ELEMENTAL

ELEMENTAL has given us details on a proposed 14.5 km pedestrian and bike path within Santiago, Chile that will run along the base of San Cristobal Hill and connect the city's many distinct communities. According to ELEMENTAL, the proposal - named "Metropolitan Promenade" - seeks to facilitate the use and quality of the city's public spaces.

The total project will cost about $16 million USD and will be constructed in two stages. The first is expected for March 2015 and will deal with 7.2 kilometers in the western sector of the park. The second stage, which should be ready in September 2015, will complete the following 7.3 kilometers in the eastern sector of the park.

Read the full architect's description, after the break.

© ELEMENTAL © ELEMENTAL © ELEMENTAL © Guy Wenborne. Image © ELEMENTAL + 12

How to Design Out Democracy from Your City (A Dictator's Guide)

00:00 - 27 February, 2014
How to Design Out Democracy from Your City (A Dictator's Guide), Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Image
Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Image

In this tongue-in-cheek "Dictator's Guide to Urban Planning", the Atlantic explores the various ways that public spaces, and cities as a whole, have been used to suppress uprisings and bolster the control of authoritarian governments. Covering everything from Baron Haussmann's 19th Century Paris to the recent revolution in the Ukraine, the article reveals the fundamental relationship between public space and democracy. You can read the full article here.

Reviewing RIBA's City Health Report: Could Le Corbusier Have Been Right?

00:00 - 7 February, 2014
Reviewing RIBA's City Health Report: Could Le Corbusier Have Been Right?, London's Olympic Park came replete with plenty of green public space. Image © Anthony Charlton
London's Olympic Park came replete with plenty of green public space. Image © Anthony Charlton

The RIBA's recent report "City Health Check: How Design Can Save Lives and Money" looks at the relationship between city planning and public health, surveying the UK's 9 largest cities in a bid to improve public health and thereby save money for the National Health Service. The report includes useful information for city planners, such as the idea that in general, it is quality and not quantity of public space that is the biggest factor when it comes to encouraging people to walk instead of taking transport.

Read on for more of the results of the report - and analysis of these results - after the break

Janette Sadik-Khan: NYC's Streets Are Not So Mean Anymore

00:00 - 15 October, 2013

Janette Sadik-Khan demonstrates how paint, lawn chairs and a bit of imagination can quickly transform city streets, creating immediate public and commercial vitality. Sadik-Khan, listed as one of Business Insider's "50 Women Who Are Changing the World," is responsible for re-purposing 26 acres of dense New York City car lanes into pedestrian-friendly space. "More people on foot is better for business," she says. Despite commanding a two billion dollar budget, her economical approach as commissioner of NYC's Department of Transportation are testaments to her design sensitivity, relying on rapid-testing and regular iteration to expand the city's public domain.


Turks Paint Public Walkways in Protest

00:00 - 8 September, 2013
Turks Paint Public Walkways in Protest, Courtesy of Twitter User durmusbeyin
Courtesy of Twitter User durmusbeyin

Last June we covered some of the anti-government protests that were taking Turkey by storm - but the Turks are still making headlines! Last week, one Istanbul resident decided to paint a derelict public stair only to find it hastily covered up by government workers. In an act of “guerilla beautification” and silent protest, people across Turkey have once again taken to the streets to paint their stairs and public walkways in rainbow colors. For the full story, check out this article on The Lede by Robert Mackey.

The "Open House": From House to Theater in 90 Minutes

01:00 - 21 August, 2013

"Open House" is artist Matthew Mazzotta's latest invention: a compact, faded pink house that unfolds into a ten-piece outdoor theater that seats nearly 100 people. Facing a raised earthen stage, it's a public space made from the remnants of a privately owned blighted property. Reversing the loss of public space that the city of York, Alabama has experienced, Open House has transformed a wasted ruin of a house into an outdoor theatre open to various community events.

How Virtual Public Squares Are Changing the Nature of Political Protest

00:00 - 20 June, 2013

"Most social movements become social moments when they appear in a public square," says Seyla Benhabib, a professor of Political Science at Yale University, in the video above. "These are informal spaces of deliberation and communication."

Occupy Wall Street, which took over New York's Zuccotti Park, is just one example of this phenomenon. As we've reported, the social movements that spread through Turkey like wildfire took physical form in Istanbul's historic Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Only a few days ago, protests took similar shape in the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as citizens protested a raise in bus fares as well as many other social issues. There are countless other examples throughout history of people utilizing public space as a vehicle for self expression and social change, but what's different about today's social movements is that they also occupy cyberspace - heavily.

A few days ago, Google+ released the short video above about these digital spaces, what they call the "virtual public square". Of course, the physical places that people use to express themselves are certainly no less important; however, it is interesting to consider the vital role social media and virtual communication now play in the unraveling of political events.

More after the break.

Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces

00:00 - 21 April, 2013
Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces, Courtesy of Flickr user Chrissy Olson
Courtesy of Flickr user Chrissy Olson

In 2011, UN-HABITAT and Project for Public Spaces (PPS) signed a 5-year cooperative agreement to aspire to raise international awareness of the importance of public space in cities, to foster a lively exchange of ideas among partners and to educate a new generation of planners, designers, community activists and other civic leaders about the benefits of what they call the "Placemaking methodology." Their partnership is helping to advance the development of cities where people of all income groups, social classes and ages can live safely, happily and in economic security and in order to reach these ambitious goals, the duo recently released 10 informative steps that cities and communities can take to improve the quality of their public spaces.

To find out what these steps are, read on!

Cities Without Ground: A Guide to Hong Kong's Elevated Walkways

00:00 - 28 March, 2013
Cities Without Ground: A Guide to Hong Kong's Elevated Walkways, Courtesy of ORO Editions
Courtesy of ORO Editions

As a city, Hong Kong doesn't have it easy; impossibly dense and smothered by unsympathetic hilly terrain, the gymnastics that it performs to survive has lead to the growth of unique urban spaces. Cities Without Ground deconstructs the unfathomable spaghetti of pedestrian bridges, tunnels and walkways, which make up pedestrian Hong Kong. The book, created by motley trio of architects and academics: Jonathan Solomon, Ciara Wong and Adam Frampton, graphically dissects this labyrinth in a series of snappy axonometric drawings of 32 various routes through the city.

Read more about the story of Hong Kong's pedestrian maze after the break...

How to Design Safer Cities

00:00 - 19 February, 2013
Copenhagen, Superkilen
Copenhagen, Superkilen

Can a good public space influence social behavior and make a city more secure?

In 1969, Philip Zimbardo, professor at the University of Stanford, performed a social psychological experiment. He placed an unlicensed car with a lifted hood in a neglected street in The Bronx, New York, and another similar car in a wealthy neighborhood of Palo Alto, California. The car in The Bronx was attacked in less than ten minutes, its apparent state of abandonment enabling the looting. The car in Palo Alto, however, remained untouched for more than a week.

Zimbardo then took his experiment one step further and broke a window of the car in Palo Alto. Almost immediately, passersby began to take things out of the car and within a few hours, the car had been completely dismantled. In both cases, many of the looters did not appear to be dangerous people. This experiment lead Harvard Professors George Kelling and James Wilson to develop the Broken Windows Theory in 1982: “If a broken window is left without repair, people will come to the conclusion that no one cares about it and that there is no one watching it. Then more windows will be broken and the lack of control will spread from the buildings to the streets, sending a signal that anything goes and that there is no authority.”

Read more about designing safer cities after the break...