Public Space

Streets and public spaces define the character of a city. From squares and boulevards to neighborhood gardens and children’s playgrounds, public space shapes the city’s image. The connective matrix of streets and public spaces forms the skeleton of the city upon which all else rests. Public space takes many forms, including parks, streets, sidewalks, footpaths, playgrounds, marketplaces, and edge spaces between buildings or roadsides, which are often vital for the urban poor.

Public space serves as the setting for a variety of activities – ceremonial festivities in a multicultural city, trade in a commercial city, movement of goods and people, provision of infrastructure, and community life and livelihoods of the urban poor, such as street vendors or waste-pickers. Having sufficient open public space allows cities and towns to function efficiently and equitably.

The network of open public spaces not only improves the quality of life but also enhances mobility and the overall functioning of the city. Well-designed and maintained streets and public spaces can help reduce crime and violence, provide space for formal and informal economic activities, and offer services and opportunities to a diverse range of users. Public space is especially crucial for the most marginalized, where it acts as ‘the poor man’s living room’ and is important for recreation, social, cultural, and economic development. Public space as a common good is a key enabler for the fulfillment of human rights, empowering women, and providing opportunities for youth.


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