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Public Spaces: The Latest Architecture and News

What is Design Justice?

Asentamiento de Kya Sands en Johannesburgo, Sudáfrica. Photo © Johnny Miller Fotografía
Asentamiento de Kya Sands en Johannesburgo, Sudáfrica. Photo © Johnny Miller Fotografía

Design Justice is a branch of architecture and design focused on redesigning cities, products, services and environments with historic reparations in mind.

The term emerged about 7 years ago when debates and dialogues about inclusion and diversity in spaces started to get stronger, creating movements that fought for the rights of people who had their roots and choices denied in society.

Reading Spaces: The Book as an Architectural Element

Vac-Library / Farming Architects. Image © Thai Thach, Viet Dung An
Vac-Library / Farming Architects. Image © Thai Thach, Viet Dung An

Far beyond basic training, reading is a leisure activity that is part of modern society. Whether outdoors, in squares and parks, at home or even at work, this habit, which improves reasoning ability and mental health, already had large spaces dedicated to books in palaces and mansions. We selected 15 projects that demonstrate the different ways of integrating reading at different scales and architectural programs.

Pavilion Library / SpaceTong (ArchiWorkshop). Image © Juneyoung LimAníbal Building / Bernardes Arquitetura. Image © Leonardo FinottiCereso Femenil Library / Proyecto Reacciona A.C. Image © Héctor Padilla FerrarisCasa com Pequena Biblioteca / Hiroshi Kinoshita and Associates. Image Cortesia de Hiroshi Kinoshita and Associates+ 16

Tactical Urbanism: What are its Limits in the Public Realm?

Today, one of the most popular initiatives regarding public space, participatory design and activism in the city is the so-called citizen urbanism or tactical urbanism. The approach proposes to trigger, through limited and low-cost interventions, long-term changes in public space, i.e. short-term action, long-term change (Street Plans, 2013).

The strategy used is to create temporary scenarios that make visible a specific problem and the formation of specific interventions to solve it, seeking to incorporate the community to give it relevance and promote its sustainability over time and, in this way, raise the discussion about the benefits of the projects for the quality of life in the context in which they are inserted.

William H. Whyte: Still Relevant After All These Years

Courtesy of Common Edge
Courtesy of Common Edge

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

In the early 1980s, when I first saw the film The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces and then read the book, both by William H. Whyte, I was enthralled. I had met Holly, as he was affectionately known, while I was still a reporter at the New York Post in the 1970s, and we had great discussions about New York City, what planners got wrong, what developers didn’t care about. By the 1980s I was at work on my first book, The Living City: Thinking Small in a Big Way, and having conversations with Jane Jacobs, who would become my good friend and mentor. Jacobs had validated the small, bottom-up community efforts around New York City that I was observing and that would be the too-often-unacknowledged sparks to jumpstart the slow, steady rebirth of the city. My observations were resoundingly dismissed—even laughed at—by professional planners and urban designers, but they were cheered and encouraged by both Whyte and Jacobs, and today they are mainstream.

Construction Advances on OMA's Simone-Veil Bridge in Bordeaux

Construction is underway for OMA’s Simone-Veil Bridge in Bordeaux, with the first elements of the metal framework installed on the right bank of the Garonne river. Spanning 548 metres, the sixth bridge across the Garonne will connect the municipalities Floirac and Bègles and provide the city with a new public space, thus framing the bridge as a contemporary boulevard. Designed as a continuous surface extended to landscaped public spaces on each bank, the 44-metre bridge will accommodate cars, public transport, bicycles, with the largest surface dedicated to pedestrians. When completed, the project will become the first bridge in OMA’s body of work.

Courtesy of OMA© Bordeaux Métropole – JB. Menges / A. Sibelait© Bordeaux Métropole – JB. Menges / A. Sibelait© Bordeaux Métropole – JB. Menges / A. Sibelait+ 6

In Bermondsey, London, Local Designers Collaborate to Revive a Neighborhood Market

© Jim Stephenson
© Jim Stephenson

For more than a century, a street market known as ‘The Blue’ was the beating heart of Bermondsey in Southeast London. On Saturdays gone by, hundreds flocked to the historic neighborhood, a site with roots reaching back to the 11th century when it was once a pilgrimage route to Bermondsey Abbey. Market punters used to sample goods from more than 200 stalls that famously sold everything under the sun. “You can buy anything down The Blue” was the phrase everyone went by.

© Jim StephensonLocals gathered to emboss the tin shingles that clad the market’s central clock tower. The reflective material is an homage to the Bermondsey’s history as the first producer of tin cans.. Image © Jim Stephenson© Jim StephensonCOURTESY ASSEMBLE STUDIO+ 10

New Green Spaces Don’t Have to Lead to Gentrification

Decades of redlining and urban renewal, rooted in racist planning and design policies, created the conditions for gentrification to occur in American cities. But the primary concern with gentrification today is displacement, which primarily impacts marginalized communities shaped by a history of being denied access to mortgages. At the ASLA 2021 Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville, Matthew Williams, ASLA, with the City of Detroit’s planning department, said in his city there are concerns that new green spaces will increase the market value of homes and “price out marginalized communities.” But investment in green space doesn’t necessarily need to lead to displacement. If these projects are led by marginalized communities, they can be embraced.

Dequindre Cut, Detroit / SmithGroup. Image Courtesy of The DirtHarold Simmons Park, Dallas, Texas / Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Image Courtesy of The DirtJoe Louis Greenway, Detroit / SmithGroup. Image Courtesy of The DirtElla Fitzgerald Park and Greenway / Spackman, Mossop, and Michaels. Image Courtesy of The Dirt+ 13

Learning from Copenhagen: A Focus on Everyday Life

København (Copenhagen), the capital of Denmark, is at the forefront of many landscape architects and planners’ minds for both its groundbreaking moves towards sustainability and cutting-edge public spaces, bicycle culture, architecture, and food scenes. Having spent a significant amount of time in the city over the last decade, I’ve had the opportunity to begin to get to know the city and its people. One of the striking things about the city, perceptible in even my time there, is its continued trajectory of improvement. A chorus of people working diligently for decades to optimize the city for the everyday lives of its inhabitants have been laying the groundwork for what is possible today.

Hasanpaşa Gasworks Park and Museum Complex / İTÜ & DS Architecture

© Cemal Emden© Cemal Emden© Cemal Emden© Cemal Emden+ 32

11 Examples of Public Spaces and Facilities Using Bamboo

Bamboo is a very resistant, versatile, and sustainable natural building material, which can be used to build structures and decorative elements. This article explores its diverse applications in a selection of projects for public spaces.

Bamboo Stalactite / VTN Architects. Image © InexhibitThe Bamboo Hat Porch in Village / Rural Culture D-R-C. Image © Gang XiangBamboo Pavilion / DnA. Image © Zhou Ruogu/Savoye PhotographerBamboo Theatre / DnA. Image © Ziling Wang+ 12

Parks and Squares: 20 Public Space Designs

Henning G. Kruses Plads / BIG. Photo: © Rasmus Hjortshøj
Henning G. Kruses Plads / BIG. Photo: © Rasmus Hjortshøj

Sports Complex in Sant Francesc Xavier / MCEA (Manuel Costoya Estudio de Arquitectura). Photo: © Gonzalo Ballester RosiqueBus Terminal and Urban Renovation in São Luís / Natureza Urbana. Photo: © Meireles JuniorMinor Paradises / studiolibani + #civilarchitectureorg. Photo: Courtesy of Civil Architecture x studiolibaniRodda Lane Intervention / Sibling Architecture. Photo: © Peter Bennetts+ 60

Designing a public space means contemplating the aspects of everyday life in the city. Creating places for gatherings, conflicts, demonstrations, relaxation, and enjoyment. These spaces can be used in many different ways, depending on who interacts with them, and one of the main roles of those who design them is to expand these possibilities and sensations. Including plants, benches, sports facilities, spaces for culture, arts, and performances, conservation areas, or any other element that stands out, is essential to improve the quality of life of the citizens who enjoy these squares and parks.

The Incredible Opportunity of Community Schoolyards

A new report from The Trust for Public Land (TPL) makes a compelling case for transforming underperforming, paved public schoolyards into green oases for the entire community. While the benefits for schools and their educational communities are clear, TPL sees an opportunity to open up these facilities to surrounding neighborhoods after school hours, on weekends, and when school is out. If all 90,000 public schools in the country had a “community schoolyard,” more communities could tackle the persistent park equity issue — in which too few communities, particularly undeserved ones, enjoy access to nearby high-quality public green spaces. TPL argues that opening up all schoolyards, essentially turning them into part-time all-access community hubs, would “put a park within a 10-minute walk of nearly 20 million people — solving the problem of outdoor access for one-fifth of the nation’s 100 million people who don’t currently have a park close to home.”

Understanding the Available City at the Chicago Architectural Biennial

In Metropolis this week, author Annie Howard explores Chicago's Architecture Biennial, which opened to the public on September 17th, showcasing a series of 15 site-specific interventions. Arguing that "a tour of the Damen Silos and a celebration of the Wall of Respect show a biennial struggling to achieve longer-term engagement with the city it calls home", the editor questions how much work is needed in order to make the city fully usable to its residents.

Pandemic-era Street Spaces: Parklets, Patios, and the Future of the Public Realm

On a clear fall day in 2005, a group of friends and collaborators from the art collective Rebar commandeered an 8-foot-wide by 20-foot-long metered parking space in downtown San Francisco. This two-hour guerilla art installation evolved into Park(ing) Day, a global public art and design activism event that has been celebrated every year since. In 2009, Rebar and other design studios were approached by the City of San Francisco to prototype a more permanent version of Park(ing) Day. In response, we created one of the world’s first parklets in San Francisco (we called our version walklet), and through the diligent efforts of Andres Power in the Mayor’s Office and City Planning, San Francisco’s pioneering parklet program was born.

Commercial and Public Spaces: Aerial Photographs and an Interactive Map Help to Explore the Tianguis of Mexico City

© Alex González / Dronalexmx© Alex González / Dronalexmx© Alex González / Dronalexmx© Alex González / Dronalexmx+ 6

Commerce has seen many changes over the past few years, especially as people worldwide have found new ways to connect and work with one another. In spite of this rapid progress, traditional commerce and cultures remain strong in Mexico City's tianguis, derived from the Nahuatl word tianquiz(tli) for “market." These open air spaces have operated since before European invasion and colonization, when bartering was the primary means of commerce and transactions were done in large public areas like plazas and corridors. Eventually, products derived from copper and cacao became a form of currency with which to purchase basic necessities.

The 2021 Exhibit Columbus Explores the Conditions of Middle Places

This year’s Exhibit Columbus explores the conditions of middle places as interconnections between ecosystems and the built environment through 13 temporary installations that highlight various aspects that make up the identity of the Mississippi watershed. Now at its third edition, the event builds on the Modernist cultural legacy of the Indiana city through a series of artistic and architectural explorations that activate public spaces and engage the community of Columbus.

Columbus Columbia Colombo Colón by Dream the Combine. Image © Hadley FruitsCloudroom by Ecosistema Urbana. Image © Hadley FruitsLaWaSo Ground by Jei Jeeyea Kim . Image © Hadley FruitsMidnight Palace by Future Firm. Image © Hadley Fruits+ 52