Pietro Garau


The concept of public space, and particularly of civic public space, is certainly a constitutive element of Italy’s urban culture. The design and spatial configuration of public spaces have always been a synthesis between deeply rooted models and political functions (the piazza, the palazzo, the church, the civic buildings), and of local circumstances and design inspiration. Hence the fascination of the piazza: while all piazze perform similar functions, they take very different spatial and architectural characteristics, thus adding to the variety and the “magic”, as it were, of public space experience.
The main purpose of this article is to celebrate the piazza as the core symbol of public space magic. In doing so, I set a modest linguistic goal: to discourage non-Italian speaking piazza fans from using the plural “piazzas” and to impose the Italian “piazze”.  As to the success of this endeavour, only future will tell.


How to Cite
Garau, P. (2016) “Measuring the Magic of Public Space. Le Piazze di Roma”, The Journal of Public Space, 1(1), pp. 17–24. doi: 10.5204/jps.v1i1.6.
Author Biography

Pietro Garau, University of Rome “La Sapienza”

Pietro Garau, an architect-planner and, first, a tenured lecturer/researcher in planning at the University of Rome, joined what was then the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) in 1980 where he worked for more than 20 years in the areas of human settlements research and policy. There he pioneered and led the production of the first Global Report on Human Settlements. As Habitat's head of research from 1990 to 1994 he authored several policy documents, including the "New Agenda for Human Settlements" and the "Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000,"  participated in the interagency work leading to UNDP's Human Development report series and authored the Human Settlements chapter of "Agenda 21."
Between 1994 and 1995 he led the Secretariat of the Habitat II Conference, subsequently acting as Habitat's Europe focal point for the Habitat II preparatory process. As head of the UN-Habitat UN office in New York City he organized the UN's special session on Habitat II + 5 and engineered Habitat's upgrading from "center" to “program." Between 2002 and 2005 he co-led the Millennium Project's Task Force on Improving the Lives of Slum Dwellers, which produced the report "A Home in the City." Back in the academic arena, he taught urban policies at Rome’s Sapienza, directed that university's Planning Research Centre for the Developing Countries, and directed courses of higher learning on the Millennium Development Goals. This work was summarized in the book Barefoot and Prada. Recently he co-organized the National Planning Institute's 2011 and 2013 Biennials on Public Space and pioneered and steered the process leading to the adoption of the Charter of Public Space. He is currently the biennial's international curator.