Public spaces are an important aspect of our cities, no matter where you are from. Open spaces are a part of our everyday lives from the parks we take our daily morning walks in, to the footpaths and open streets that surround our buildings. In many developing countries these spaces are often overlooked and not well maintained, including in India. There are well maintained parks in many countries and there is also a growing trend in neighborhood or pocket parks. Countries such as the USA are leading examples of good public spaces that are well maintained and accessible to the public. Freedom in these public spaces are also a lot more in developed countries, where people have a right to exercise and express themselves completely without hesitation. It is such public spaces that are needed throughout the world and as planners we need to encourage the growth of public spaces.
Related: Top 5 Urban Planning Quotes and their Meanings, Edward Soja’s Theories of Urban Space
Below are a few Public Spaces quotes and a brief explanation of what they mean:
1. “Public Space is for living, doing business, kissing and playing. It’s value can’t be measured with economics or mathematics; it must be felt with the soul.” – Enrique Penalosa
This quote relates to the freedom that is expressed in public spaces. Citizens need to have the right to express themselves completely including living and playing in these spaces. Conservative countries restrict their citizens to kiss publicly and hold hands but these are rights that need to be exercised and given priority towards in a public space. Open spaces are people spaces, they are where people meet others, engage, form a community and try to make a difference in the public. It is very different to the private engagements we have in our daily life. When Enrique Penalosa says that public spaces must be felt with the soul, he means that public spaces are felt and resonate deep within us while helping us to reflect our inner most selves to the outside world.
2. “What is interesting about art in public spaces is that the public really sort of takes over and uses it in ways that you didn’t anticipate” – Teresita Fernandez
Art is one of the amenities in public space that is very attractive to people. It brings people together and lets people explore the space in their own terms. For instance, some children and adults may climb on the public art or they might touch it or walk around it, which is a form of democratic expression and embodiment in the public realm. There is a growing trend in the 21st century where interactive art and people based artworks are coming up around the world, which lets people take ownership of the space. This is a real citizen centrist concept which is very much present in the USA which is leading in public art interactions. Although this concept is spreading around the world, it needs to be more regulated and enforced than it is done currently. There is only a niche of researchers and artists involved in public space art which needs to grow rapidly, if we need to make fruitful changes.
3. “Architecture is about public space held by buildings” – Richard Rogers
This quote relates to architecture as a whole and the ways in which buildings are connected through various public spaces. This gives people a sense of the city that they are in and lets them understand the architecture and the different ways in which the city is formed from the eye-level. When we walk within our cities, we can explore the architecture from the public spaces we encounter. Buildings influence the space we are in and even a public space is a form of built environment, with intricate urban design principles. This is a way to appreciate the entire built form through our public spaces as we conduct our various activities in the cities we live in.
4. “Cultures and climate differs all over the world, but people are the same. They’ll gather in public, if you give them a good place to do it” – Jan Gehl
This is a very good quote, which suggests that everyone enjoys a good public space from time to time, no matter where you live in the world. Public spaces are an asset that people use to gather and congregate to not only bring about changes, but to also use it for daily activities such as exercise and play. Gehl suggests that even though our cultures vary, we are all portray similar behaviours and attitudes towards good public spaces. Unfortunately, although this should be a human right, not many developing countries have the opportunity towards well maintained public spaces because of the planning structures and the government maintaining the public spaces have not enacted these rules and regulations. The amenities present in the public space is also very important because if there is seating and green grass, people are more likely to spend more time in the space, than without these facilities. Gehl’s quote suggests that public spaces need to be a fundamental part of our everyday lives for citizens around the world.
5. “For teens it works differently. For them it actually is a public space where they can try on new identities” – Bryant Simon
The above is an important quote relating to childhood and teenage children. Adults behave in a more restricted manner in public spaces, whereas children are a lot more expressive and take control of the space, which adults don’t necessarily do. Children experiment within the space and play with the public art, run around the gardens and use the public space as a development tool for their changing identities and psychological growth. Many schools also let their children play in public spaces during break times so that they form groups, talk to other students and become more in tuned towards the environment they live in. Public spaces can be a very influential tool for young people and there is a growing research in the field between the connection of public space and children. Children also have different mental images of the cities and spaces they interact with. Bryant Simon makes it clear in this quote that teenage and childhood is an experimental stage of life where the surroundings can be an important determining factor on their emotional, social and psychological growth.
Therefore, all the above quotes indicate that public space is very important in our cities and they need to be encouraged much more than government agencies and planners are currently doing. Public spaces can give us a sense of relief, help us talk to other people, socialize and come together in various ways. It is an important part of the built environment and people all around the world need to enforce good public spaces so that citizens can have their own space to express and integrate with the society. Children engage differently to the adults in public spaces, including the amenities that are in these spaces. From young children to older adults including senior citizens, public spaces are a necessity for everyone around the world.
Related: Doreen Massey on Urban Space, Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space