Measuring place identity in public open spaces

Polat, S. & Dostoglu, N.

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Polat, S., & Dostoglu, N. (2016). Measuring place identity in public open spaces. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-Urban Design and Planning, 170(5), 217-230.

There is a growing body of evidence that indicates that for creating civic consciousness and sustaining urban identity and memory people need civic interaction and social reconciliation, which are promoted by public open spaces. However, in an era of globalisation, public open spaces are mostly discussed in relation to privatisation, disappearance, obsolescence and loss of place identity, leading to urban decay problems in many city centres. The aim of this study is to propose a research method for monitoring changes in place identity in public open spaces to set the right objectives and policies in the design process of these spaces for keeping them alive and for sustaining public life. In this context, a case study was conducted in Bursa’s Republic Square in Turkey, using different interpretive historical, quantitative and qualitative strategies. The main findings of the case study are that there has been a gradual decline in sense of place in recent years, although the architectural and artistic elements of the area and the name of the place are still effective in defining the identity of the area.

Main finding
The place identity of Bursa's Republic Square in Turkey has undergone several transformations influenced by economic, political and environmental factors. This study develops a scientific method to analyze components and dimensions of place identity through periodical and systematic interpretation. Three dimensions are identified which apply to different periods in time that have been studied. The 'planning-design-implementation processes' that constituted the place identity can be found in the first two periods: Between 1862 (urban development after earthquake) and 1923 (declaration of Republic of Turkey) and 1950 (first multiparty elections in Turkey). The 'use and governance processes' dimension is identified in the third period between 1950 and 1980 (important political movements and uncontrolled urbanisation). The fourth period between 1980 and 2010 (new liberal economic policies and globalisation trends causing rapid transformations) characterizes place identity only by architectural elements. The third dimension of 'meaning' depends on the other two dimensions of place identity.

Description of method used in the article
The method used is semi-structured in-depth interviews with 30 users

Policy implications

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Urban Design
Physical types
Geographic locations