Why are the design and development of public spaces significant for cities?

Ali Madanipour

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Madanipour, A. (1). Why are the design and development of public spaces significant for cities?. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 26(6), 879–891. http://dx.doi.org/10.1068/b260879

Much of the recent interest in urban design has focused on the creation and management of public spaces of cities. My aim in this paper is to explore the nature and role of public space and its significance for cities today. I look at how the promotion of public space is, on the one hand, a concern for social and functional integration in response to social and spatial segregation of cities and the privatization of public space and, on the other hand, a vehicle of marketing localities and consuming places, all leading to multiple representations and meanings. I argue that it is important that the development of urban public space, as part of a larger, often despatialized public sphere, addresses these tensions and contributes to the emergence of an urbanism which promotes social integration and tolerance.

Main finding
In search for answers as to the significance of public space to urban life, the author identifies several avenues of discourse - some of which will be described here. Public space as a social construction of space involves both ‘brute’ facts (eg. existence of objects and people in built space) and ‘institutional’ or socially agreed upon facts (eg. the meanings imbued in objects in the built environment). Symbolism allows these social facts to have multiple interpretations from varied perspectives. Public space in the city carries different definitions regarding the distinction between pubic and private; however, a general definition with normative value overlooks the variations of place-specific publics spaces. Industrialization has bifurcated the public/private spheres and despatialized social functions of everyday life. However, public spaces may see a resurging role in the public sphere as cities are marketed to attract urban lifestyles and aesthetics with sites of mixed uses and activities.

Description of method used in the article
The author has no specific methodology outlined in the article. Rather, public space is discussed through different discourses, each supported by a relevant body of literature as selected and reviewed by the author in support of his argument.

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Organising categories

Other or N/A
Participant Observation
Urban Planning
Physical types