ABSTRACT

This book stems from a personal belief that public space plays a key role in building the sustainable, socially equal and liveable cities of tomorrow. We are greatly concerned today with the sustainable development of our fast urbanising society (Human Development Report 2007/2008, UN Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009) and with nding ways to improve our cities so that they become more socially cohesive, environmentally friendly and economically competitive. Through their multiple functions and various roles, public places1 are central to achieving urban sustainability, in all its three dimensions:

Firstly, from a social perspective, public places such as streets, parks, plazas, squares and so on, are the stages where new social encounters happen, where people relax and enjoy themselves together, in other words, where the city’s public social life unfolds. They connect the space of home and work/study thus providing the setting and the opportunity for the enrichment of a society’s public life. Of a special concern today is a worldwide noticeable increase in the control of ‘the public’ and the existence of a new wave of anti-immigration attitudes and policies on the background of the current economic crisis, such as in the recently conservative United Kingdom. The concept that Nancy Fraser coined of ‘multiple publics’ (1990) becomes therefore key to understanding the contemporary multi-ethnic city. When we think of the control of the public, we must ask ‘Which public?’ while when we discuss the creation of a public place for the public, we must ask ‘What kind of public?’ and ‘Who defines the public?’. In addition, the predominant phenomenon of the privatisation of public space (Sorkin 1992, Davis 1998, Zukin 2000, Atkinson 2003), coupled with an increased degree of control and surveillance measures (Lofland 1998, Davis 1998), especially after 9/11, has led to grave consequences, such as increased

social exclusion and spatial injustice. It is held here that more inclusive and more democratic public places help a city’s social cohesiveness, which in turn contributes towards its sustainability.