The High Line. Las Ramblas. Tahrir Square. Cincinnati’s Washington Park.
Urban landscapes may be covered by mostly private property, but when we think about cities, we usually picture the swathes of grass and pavement where we jumble together like so many bingo balls. These public spaces can become realms for inclusiveness and social integration or anxious spheres that encourage distance and sorting. While we intuitively sense the difference between Central Park and an office building plaza, rarely do we analyze why some civic spaces succeed in catalyzing empathy and connectivity, while others become isolated by class and race. To better understand how public space and civic life intersect, Next City is launching a new six-month series of articles called “In Public,” with funding from the the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Every week we’ll ask questions like: Which of our public spaces foster inclusiveness and social integration, and why do they do that? Can public spaces serve to generate new and innovative ideas for a city? How do we measure our public realm against these criteria? What are some case studies and tools that can help us dig deeper into the real social life of today’s public spaces? Through blog posts, photo essays and video, we’ll call out the best examples of these public spaces with the hope of inspiring more of them. One of the long-term pioneers in public space design, Gehl Architects, will partner with Next City to explain its process and methods of evaluating the success of public spaces. In the end, readers will have an archive of two dozen examples of public spaces that bring people together, spread ideas and promote economic integration. We hope you’ll follow along.
The column, In Public, is made possible with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.