Michael W. Mehaffy
Setha M. Low


This paper serves as an introduction to the December 2018 edition of The Journal of Public Space, and a reflection on the new importance of public space in international research, policy and practice.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the New Urban Agenda, the ambitious new international agreement for the normative goals of urban development in the next two decades and beyond.  In that document, public space is treated in no fewer than nine paragraphs – and that new emphasis constitutes a historic reversal of highly influential normative models of prior urban practice.  Herein we examine the seminal 1933 Charter of Athens, and we draw out major differences between the two documents, with particular attention to urban form and public space. We conclude with an assessment of the challenges ahead for implementation, particularly as we face significant “lock in” of the older model.


How to Cite
Mehaffy, M. W. and Low, S. M. (2018) “The resurgence of public space: from the Charter of Athens to the New Urban Agenda”, The Journal of Public Space, 3(3), pp. 1–24. doi: 10.32891/jps.v3i3.1134.
Author Biographies

Michael W. Mehaffy, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Michael W. Mehaffy, Ph.D. is Senior Researcher at Ax:son Johnson Foundation and the Centre for the Future of Places at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. He is also Executive Director of Sustasis Foundation, a small urban think tank based in Portland, Oregon. He is an internationally active author, educator, speaker, consultant, planner and designer, working on leading projects in the USA, Latin America, Europe and Asia. He has held teaching and/or research appointments in architecture, urban planning and philosophy at seven universities in six countries, and he is currently on the editorial boards of two internal journals of urban design. He has consulted to governments, NGOs, private companies, and most recently, UN-Habitat on its formulation of the “New Urban Agenda,” a humanistic urban policy framework now adopted by consensus by 193 nations. He is the author or contributing author of over 20 books, including 'Design for a Living Planet and Cities Alive: Jane Jacobs, Christopher Alexander and the Roots of the New Urban Renaissance'. He is also the author of over 100 articles in professional and trade journals. He received his Ph.D. in architecture from Delft University of Technology.

Setha M. Low, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Setha Low is Professor of Environmental Psychology, Geography, Anthropology, and Women’s Studies, and Director of the Public Space Research Group at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She has been awarded a Getty Fellowship, a NEH fellowship, a Fulbright Senior Fellowship, a Future of Places Fellowship and a Guggenheim for her ethnographic research on public space in Latin America and the United States. Her most recent books are 'Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place' (2017), 'Anthropology and the City' (2019), and 'Spaces of Security' (with M. Maguire) (2019).


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