Public spaces must now meet our need to be ‘together but apart’.
When urban spaces work well they are highly social spaces. How do we safely manage them and people's fears about mingling when ‘being together but apart’ is the norm?
Temporary and tactical urbanism offers simple, low-cost solutions to make streets and other public spaces both safe and sociable during this time of physical distancing.
COVID-19 has upturned uses of public spaces that we took for granted. Will shifts in the regulation of these spaces lead to a change in thinking about who “owns” the city?
At a deserted Federation Square in Melbourne, the big screen broadcasts this message: ‘If you can see this, what are you doing? Go home.’
Current restrictions remind us of the value of access to public space and one another. Yet even before COVID-19 some people were excluded and targeted, so a return to the status quo isn't good enough.
Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images
In reacting to the pandemic, architecture can reclaim its impact by conceding its loss of connection with public health, looking beyond Western thinking for its references.
Most of the activities that define city life we do together. Now that we are having to get used to more isolated lives, will this have lasting social impacts or will city life resume as before?
Our mental health benefits when nature is part of our neighbourhoods, as in this residential street in Fitzroy, Melbourne.
It's well-established that green spaces are good for our well-being. Now we can demonstrate that greater biodiversity boosts this benefit, as well as helping to sustain native plants and animals.
Some publicly accessible spaces are actually privately owned public spaces such as Brisbane’s popular South Bank city beach and streets scene.
As you walk about a city are you in public or private space? The line is often blurred.
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”.
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
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.
The Spanish city is remaking urban neighbourhoods by limiting through traffic in superblocks that give priority to pedestrians and street activities, not cars.
Grid, glorious grid.
The 'superblocks' are expected to have massive benefits for health and well-being – but it takes good governance.
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
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
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.
Hampstead Heath, London.
The UK's surviving urban commons are precious green spaces, but the laws that protect them are confusing, complicated and in some cases outdated.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Luxury apartments loom over the Paraisópolis Favela in São Paulo, Brazil.
Segregation is not just a problem in London – it's happening in cities all over the world.