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Designing the city from public space. A contribution to (re)think the urbanistic role of public space in the contemporary enlarged city

Abstract

Considering the tendency for expansion, diversification and fragmentation of the present city´s urban spaces, and considering that in the last decades public space lost much of the formal and functional attributes that it held in the past (in the historical city), the main problem that we currently face as architects and planners, seems to be how to articulate and (re) build (new) public places that materialise, in a qualified manner, the collective experience (the new ways of living, social interaction and displacement) of the “newer parts” of the city, and that simultaneously incorporate attributes that transform them into memorable and perennial spaces - landmarks of the city that is to come.
The recent practical and theoretical outputs contradictorily appear to demonstrate a relative devaluation of the structuring role of public space, especially in those less consolidated parts of the city. Regarding the architectonic and urbanistic practice, we conclude that, in a time of mediatisation of architecture (in particular by the enhancement of the image and of iconographic values), the construction of the city and the materialisation of public space expresses, in many cases, generic and epidermal responses with visible consequences in terms of urban structure and perception of the city. Regarding the theoretic outputs, the insights also do not appear, in general, to contribute towards a theoretical framework committed to a consistent practical knowledge, or the resolution of the key issues and challenges that the city faces today.
Taking into account these considerations, and starting with a brief diagnosis that will focus on the major “weaknesses or controversies” that we identify in the theoretical discourse on the city and on public space, this paper will seek to focus on the importance of the urbanistic vocation of public space by identifying three main issues or key purposes to think and retrieve the public space project in the contemporary city. The three key purposes that will help us to recognize the strategic importance of public space in the contemporary European “enlarged city”, and that will be analysed by using a case study, are:
- The public space as an ordering element of “new urban expansion”;
- The public space as a factor of reconstruction of the “city without a plan”;
- The public space as a (re)structuring element of the “metropolitan city”.

Published:
Pages:95 to 108
Section: Society
How to Cite
Coelho, R. (2017) “Designing the city from public space. A contribution to (re)think the urbanistic role of public space in the contemporary enlarged city”, The Journal of Public Space, 2(1), pp. 95-108. doi: 10.5204/jps.v2i1.53.

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Author Biography

Universidade do Porto
Portugal Portugal

Rodrigo Coelho (Zamora, Spain, 1971) is graduated in architecture from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto (FAUP) and holds a Master in Architecture and Urban Studies from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. In 2012 he presented his PhD thesis in Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture of University of Porto.
He is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto and Deputy Director of the Centre for Architecture and Urban Studies CEAU-FAUP, where he develops, as an integrated member, research on the subject of public space.
His PHD thesis was awarded (ex-aequo) with the 1st prize of VIII Iberoamerican Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism (2012) in the category of Academic Theses.

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