Articles on Public space

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One nine-year-old chose his local supermarket as a place he valued because he could “spend time with mum and help decide what goes in our trolley”. Shutterstock

Public places through kids’ eyes – what do they value?

When primary school children in a disadvantaged part of Sydney were asked to map what they valued in the area, their choices were revealing and sometimes surprising.
Sea Line Park, one of the shortlisted entries in the competition to design a new park for the Melbourne of 2050. Future Park Design Ideas Competition

Why we need ‘crazy’ ideas for new city parks

Some might scoff at the free-ranging ideas sparked by a competition to design future parks for Melbourne. But the legacy of a radical idea to green a CBD street in 1985 shows why we need such thinking.
The benefits of ‘superblocks’ for Barcelona include better health, access to green space and other public space, and more transport-related physical activity. Orbon Alija/iStock

Superblocks are transforming Barcelona. They might work in Australian cities too

The Spanish city is remaking urban neighbourhoods by limiting through traffic in superblocks that give priority to pedestrians and street activities, not cars.
Union Square: contentious political rallies helped progressive social reformers argue for the protection of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington DC, USA

How New York’s Union Square helped shape free speech in the US

New York's Union Square is an important site in American labor history. One scholar's research illustrates the shifting meanings and inherent tensions of public space as an epicenter of civic life.
Hong Kong protesters have exploited the public space of the city’s streets as well as digital space. Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

How Hong Kong protesters have been winning the battle for public space

Hong Kong has few recognisable public places and none with the space for huge numbers of protesters. Instead, they have co-opted the streets and digital media as public spaces for protest.
Imagine Hyde Park in Sydney without its tree cover … the impact on this space and the many people who spend time in it would be profound. EA Given/Shutterstock

Increasing tree cover may be like a ‘superfood’ for community mental health

Cities around Australia have plans to increase their green space, but new research shows not all green spaces are equal. Good tree cover is better than grassed areas for residents' mental health.
Dalian is an emerging city and tourist destination in China, but its urban spaces could be improved in many ways. Paul J Martin/Shutterstock

China can learn from Australian urban design, but it’s not all one-way traffic

Australia has well established urban design guidelines, whereas many Chinese cities don't have any – and it shows. But Australia can also learn from China.
Bright light does not necessarily make a space feel safer, as seen here where there’s a sharp drop-off into dark shadows at the edge of the path. grafxart/Shutterstock

More lighting alone does not create safer cities. Look at what research with young women tells us

Bright lighting alone does not make a space feel safe. It can blind and disorientate and create dark shadows at the edges. Tellingly, 'unsafe' places had much higher illuminance than 'safe' places.
New housing estates on the city fringes might be soulless, cookie-cutter developments, but communities can invest them with layers of meaning that create a sense of place. Lukas Coch/AAP

How to turn a housing development into a place where people feel they belong

A sense of place matters for people and communities. When a suburb is created from scratch, close attention needs to be paid to the cues from the landscape and meanings people attach to the area.
Larger-than-life advertising is nothing new for our cities – this billboard is at the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth streets in Melbourne. jadecraven/Shutterstock

Selling out the city to advertising? Nothing new to see here

Both Melbourne and Sydney have been embroiled in controversy over advertising that dominates public space, but the debate isn't new. In fact, it's almost as old as our cities.
In an urban setting like central Footscray, where only 1% of the area is public space, the value of the humble footpath needs to be recognised. Yvonne Meng

Don’t forget the footpath – it’s vital public space

Footpaths are a valuable space for everyday social activity, but their role is often overlooked. In increasingly dense urban areas such as Footscray, footpaths are essential public spaces.
Mosques like the one in Lakemba, Sydney, were among the few places of belonging where Muslims could feel safe from Islamophobia. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Christchurch attacks strike at the heart of Muslims’ safe places from Islamophobia

Muslims need places where they feel safe from Islamophobia. And being made to feel unwelcome has lasting impacts – Muslims still avoid Cronulla beach, the scene of anti-Muslim riots in 2005.
Uninviting, car-dominated streets, like this one in Melbourne, reduce our experience menu by discouraging beneficial activities like walking and sharing places with other people. Daniel Bowen/Flickr

Is your ‘experience diet’ making you unwell?

If the menu of potential activities that do us good is made to look uninviting or challenging, we are more likely to choose the easier but less healthy option.
Seven years after Tahrir Square became the focal point of the Egyptian Revolution, towering metal gates now control access. Ahmed Abd El-Fatah/Wikimedia

How city squares can be public places of protest or centres of state control

Today’s urban public spaces tend to represent governments and cities rather than people and citizens. Architects and urban designers should contribute to shaping spaces for freedom and interaction.

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