Public Space ReConfigure
Public Space in the Age of Global Warming_Richard Ingersoll
Although a very influential climate-change-denier recently assumed power in the USA, all knowledgeable sources agree that the planet has entered a new geological phase, defined by Paul Crutzen as the Anthropocene.
After two centuries of intense human-produced gases released into the atmosphere, the climate is incrementally warming up, freak storms intensifying, and either excess water or lack of it threatens major urban areas. Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans, while the annual inundations in Dhaka make the option of public space tenuous. The 100,000 inhabitants of the Kiribati Islands in the Pacific will be the first climate victims to surrender their land to rising waters. In the design and programming of new or restructured urban areas the effect of global warming on public spaces is rarely considered. Yet as many as 70% of the world’s great cities will unfortunately find their open spaces threatened as the waters rise from .2 to 2 meters or more during the 21st century.
When considering contemporary public space, the issues addressed by Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961), William H. Whyte (The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, 1980) and Jan Gehl (Public Spaces, Public Life, 1996), mostly involved crime, apathy, and motor traffic. Palliative solutions, such as narrowing streets to discourage cars, planning multiple pedestrian access points with a series of desirable goals in public view, designing comfort zones with benches, fountains and vegetation, and installing soft-cop surveillance points, proved their merit in planning successful modern spaces such as Place Beaubourg at Centre Pompidou (Piano & Rogers, 1976), the Rambla del Raval in Barcelona (Carles Diaz, Xavier Sust, Oscar Tusquets and Lluís Clotet, 1999), or the Piazza Gae Aulenti in Milan (Pelli Clark Pelli, 2013). Adherence to the theory of social triangulation—a program with at least three different functions creating pretexts to cross public space—will probably remain a good idea for the near future, even if one has to get their feet wet in doing so, or even more likely collide with someone concentrating on their cell phone messages.
Public Buildings – Urban Social Infrastructure_Isabel Potworowski
In its essence, the city has always been a meeting place. In the past century, however, new technologies and a general trend towards privatization have contributed to changing this meeting function from a necessity to a choice. Activities that previously took place in public spaces now increasingly take place in (semi-) private spaces. As the use of public spaces becomes optional, their quality and attraction become correspondingly more important. How can public buildings contribute to the city’s function as a meeting place, making it into a place where people choose to spend their time? An overview of recent projects demonstrates how public buildings are generating activity by offering a mix of recreational programs, by creating public interiors that invite use, and by making connections with their context. In these ways, public buildings act as anchors of the urban social infrastructure.