Public Spaces and Quality of Life in Cities

EURA Conference in Brno, Czech Republic

23-25 September 2004

This conference focused on an issue that is becoming increasingly important in debates over the future of cities in Europe and elsewhere. Public spaces are rising up the research agenda and the link to quality of life in cities poses interesting problems for interdisciplinary research. Public spaces have long been seen as important places for social mixing, dialogue and entertainment, but increasingly they are seen as playing an important role in the way in which a city presents itself to the outside world and how it encourages diversity and social interaction within the city. These topics raise a range of questions not only for academics interested in cities but also for politicians, planners, architects and all those who live in cities. Attendees included academics and practitioners providing the basis for a series of lively and stimulating discussions.

A wide range of papers were presented at the conference looking at the issues from a variety of different perspectives. All agreed on the importance of public space but offered a variety of perspectives on their role and issues. Some papers focussed on the role such spaces can play in city marketing while others looked at how, at the micro-level, individuals experience and utilise such spaces. Much thought was given to how public spaces previously shunned by the public can be made more attractive and user-friendly. Examples were provided of previously intimidating spaces that have been returned to use through working with local citizens to devise plans on how to revitalise such `dead spaces’. Indeed, the role played by local communities was a strong theme in many of the papers. Other papers also identified different types of public spaces – for example those that have a national resonance, those that have a role in defining a city-wide identity and those whose importance relates to the local neighbourhood. The role public space can play in defining identity was also an issue raised by a number of papers. Finally the issue of conflicts over the use of public spaces by different groups was raised in several papers and the need to develop methods of negotiating and resolving conflicts.

Organiser

Dr. Vladimira Silhankova
Urban theory department
Faculty of Architecture TU Brno and
Head of NGO Civitas per Populi
Porici 5, 639 00 Brno
Czech Republic

Email: vladimira.silhankova@atlas.cz

Proceedings

The theme of the conference was focused on a currently very important theme – public spaces and its relationship with city life. Over the last decade issues surrounding public space and its uses have attracted the attention of sociologists, architects, geographers, etc, as well as municipal politicians reflecting on the impact of years of neglect and lack of investment in such spaces. Thus, both in theoretical and practical terms, the problems surrounding public space, its use and position within the city, is of importance to all those who research, manage, live and work in the modern city. Moreover, local communities have become increasingly concerned with such spaces, how they are used and their impact(s) on communities. Increasingly judgments about particular cities and towns take into account the quality of their public spaces (e.g. the existence or non existence of pedestrian zones, parks, residential squares, etc). The conference focused on:

  • How we judge the quality of public spaces
  • What constitutes a desirable public space
  •  How public spaces are used
  •  The position and role public spaces occupy within the wider urban structure
  • The role of public space in attracting investment
  • How public spaces can improve the quality of life for citizens of cities
  • People’s experiences of public spaces

All of these factors play an important role in determining how city life is evaluated and how desirable particular cities are considered to be regarding investment, living, working, raising families, etc. The problems surrounding public space and its use is thus not merely an issue for architects and politicians but has much wider implications for other academic disciplines and professions (e.g. sociology, psychology, ecology and traffic engineering) as well as for the inhabitants of cities. This conference seeks to investigate how both academic and policy orientated research has addressed these issues and the implications for the future of the modern city.

This book collects the main papers from the conference and allows us to popularize the conference results in wide accessible material.

For further details contact:

NGO Civitas per Populi secretar:
Petra Pokludova
Porici 5
639 00 Brno
Czech Republic

Email: petra.pokludova@gmail.com