The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Meeting Place, Market Place and Connection Space = Public Space?

Looking back into the history of cities, public spaces have traditionally had three important functions in relation to the life of the cities. The public spaces functioned as meeting place, market place and connection /traffic space. People were talking, exchanging merchandise or moving about. All functions were vital, and in traditional cities these three functions occurred side by side in the same spaces in a fine balance. In recent years we have seen how this balance in many cities has been greatly upset by a number of factors especially the expansion of car traffic.

Taking a closer look at present day life in public spaces it becomes evident that most of the activities seen today have an optional character. In the old days ―as seen in the medieval times or in less developed economies― most people on the streets and squares are present because they are forced to use these spaces. They hardly have any choice. In the present day situation nearly all the activities seen in public spaces are free-of-choice activities.When people use the cities today it is not because they have to, but because they like to. The public spaces can offer something attractive and meaningful to the citizens ―if not they would not come.

“The Reconquered City” refers to cities, which during the past 3-4 decades have striven to achieve a better balance between traffic, market and meeting place issues. (Examples: Barcelona, Strasbourg, Lyon, Freiburg and Copenhagen in Europe, and from other continents cities such as Portland [USA], Curitiba [Brazil] & Melbourne). In many of these cities can be found an impressive increase in the volumes of people activities in the improved public spaces.

source: Jan Gehl on "Winning back the Public Spaces" in Conference lectured at the symposium “(In)visible Cities. Spaces of Hope, Spaces of Citizenship”, Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, 25-27 July 2003)

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