- It is natural instinct for people to want to be together with others and public spaces allow this to happen.
- Policy has been driven from the top by people who do not understand the needs of the majority who live in cities; people have to be central to the creation of public spaces.
- In many cities, public spaces are being re-introduced with successful results.
Historically, people moved to cities for a better life, but cities are not necessarily designed for that. In the 1960s, people moved en masse to cities, but they were just a 'machine for living'. The planners and architects did not try to understand the aspirations and needs of the people; the 'modernists' in city planning managed a plan to kill city life. The problem has been that policy has been driven from the top by people who do not understand the needs of the majority who live in the city.
In China, the massive move to the city has taken the Chinese away from their traditional houses arranged in courtyards and places of meeting. They have had to adjust to new 'linear' housing developments on the city fringes from which they commute.
Dhaka, Bangladesh, has been expanding at a rate of half a million people each year, and is unfortunately following the China/Western model of building capacity for cars, roads and the massive use of energy. Modern planners in Dhaka believe that if they could control the resources, they could have a successful city.
Rickshaws, which represent a source of employment, were banned from the streets in favour of cars. Automobiles are now a major problem and the World Bank needs to provide a US$1 billion dollar loan for new roads. Is this the right model?
To counter this trend, public spaces are being re-introduced with successful results in many cities around the world. In Copenhagen, for example, the widespread introduction of pedestrianisation has influenced people's behaviour. Public life is coming back, where ‘mainstreet’ has become a ‘walking street’ and the main square has become a public square, as it used to be.
After the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, which destroyed the inner city, authorities decided not to rebuild the town as it was, but to ask the residents what kind of city they would like to see. The 'Share an Idea' project generated 106 000 ideas about what it should be like: low rise, more public spaces, more gardens, smaller retail areas, a city for people. They also wanted the cathedral to be the tallest building and be able to hear the sound of people talking and birds singing, not car engines.
It is estimated that 80 % of people will live in cities by the end of the century. As such, public spaces will be more important than ever. Public spaces are the future and people have to be central to their creation. ‘If you have more space to live in, you will have more public life.’
People in cities instinctively flock to public spaces; they are the key to making cities more liveable in the future.