Public space offers the places, circuits and networks used for contact with the diverse people and different activities that make up our social and psychological world. There is 35 years of ethnographic research evidence that public space is a major contributor to a flourishing society by promoting social justice and democratic practices, informal work and social capital, play and recreation, cultural continuity and social cohesion, as well as health and well-being. During this COVID-19 pandemic, however, we are experiencing a shrinking sense of this world and the resulting isolation tears at the fabric of our lives and exposes how dependent we are on one another for well-being and happiness. At the same time the pandemic highlights the socioeconomic basis of disease vulnerability and exposure risk. Expanding the use of streets, parks and open spaces can help to reinstitute the kinds of connections and relationships that underpin a flourishing society but only if a social justice agenda is kept in mind.
* This article includes data updated to March 2021.