The main public spaces in European cities are the focus of much attention, whereas marginal public spaces are places of neglect and decline. The concentration of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in limited spaces creates a sense of entrapment. The social fragments that have been put next to each other in deprived neighbourhoods, either by market forces or by public planning, start to crack in public places of these neighbourhoods. On the one hand, intensive use of space by some groups excludes and intimidates others. On the other hand, the limited amount of public space is under the threat of encroachment by other demands on a finite commodity. In these places of fragmentation and competition, communication is often difficult, if not impossible, as different social groups speak different languages, have different attitudes and have different frameworks. A public space that allows this diversity to become aware of itself through free expression can be a significant asset for such a diverse population. Improving public places can improve the actual conditions of life in these neighbour- hoods, while injecting a sense of hope and a better image in the eyes of residents and the outside world. Although a key part of good governance, there is no doubt that this should be put in perspective, as one among a number of issues that need addressing.