Public spaces are taking on an increasingly important role in the urban agenda. The quantity, quality, accessibility and connectivity of public spaces have been highlighted as key criteria for urban regeneration, and as fundamental conditions to wellbeing, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. The main challenge is to develop inclusive and polyvalent spaces, adapted to cultural and environmental contexts, in order to foster economic and cultural activities, guarantee security and encourage social capital formation. The participation of the populations in the creation and management of public spaces as well as the implementation of effective regulations, have been identified as key conditions for success.
The cultural approach to urban development can be directly applied through public spaces. Public spaces serve as the basic framework for urban landscape and reflect the history and cultural diversity of urban societies, through their morphology as well as their uses. In this context, a thorough knowledge of cultural heritage (architecture, urban morphology, practices and cultural expressions…) is key to understanding the way public spaces function and to guide planning and management choices. The preservation of historical traces and the safeguarding of traditional practices and cultural diversity, have a direct impact on the quality of public spaces and their capacity to generate social capital.
A growing number of cities have also chosen to give a role to culture in public spaces. Artists, designers and urban professionals are invited to reinvent and regenerate public spaces, through interventions involving the arts and the urban setting (furniture, lighting…), particularly in cases of urban sprawl and developing areas. Traditional and collective maintenance practices are used to establish community-based management measures for public spaces, hence allowing their appropriation by the populations. Finally, cultural events offer the opportunity to promote or recover abandoned public spaces in order to strengthen social cohesion and the “living together”.
Panel 6 titled 'Public Spaces as a Key to Urban Regeneration' at the 'International Conference on Culture for Sustainable Cities', Hangzhou, People’s Republic of China 10-12 December 2015, focused on debating the following questions: