Public Space

Its streets and public spaces define the character of a city. From squares and boulevards to neighbourhood  gardens and children playgrounds, public space frames city image. The connective matrix of streets and public spaces forms the skeleton of the city upon which all else rests. Public space takes many spatial forms, including parks, the streets, sidewalks and footpaths that connect, playgrounds of recreation, marketplaces, but also edge space between buildings or roadsides, which are often important spaces for the urban poor. Public space forms the setting for a panoply of activities - the ceremonial festivities of the multi-cultural city, trade of the commercial city, the movement of goods and people, provision of infrastructure, or the setting for community life and livelihoods of the urban poor–e.g. street vendors or wastepickers. Having sufficient open public space allows cities
and towns to function efficiently and equitably. The network of open public space not only improves quality of life but also mobility and functioning of the city. Well-designed and maintained streets and open public spaces can help lower rates of crime and violence, make space for formal and informal economic activities and avail services and opportunities to a diversity of users, particularly for the most marginalized, where public space is ‘the poor man’s living room’ and important for recreation, social, cultural and economic development. Public space as a common good is the key enabler for the fulfilment of human rights, empowering women and providing opportunities for youth. Investments in streets and public space infrastructure improve urban productivity, livelihoods and allows better access to markets, jobs and public services, especially in developing countries where over half of the urban workforce is informal.

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.

Author: 
United Nations Human Settlement Programme

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