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Towards a More Inclusive, Naturalized Public Space

Image of Paisaje Transversal’s Pradogrande remodelling project.

Improving public space in our cities requires new perspectives and creative processes. In this article we’d like to take a closer look at some of the issues we consider essential for designing public spaces which are not only characterised by their formal quality but are also inclusive, healthy and sustainable.

More specifically, we believe that public spaces in our cities should fulfil two conditions. Firstly, they should encourage social interaction and contribute to meeting citizens’ needs, and secondly, their comfort dimension should be naturalized and optimized. For us, a quality, efficient public space is one in which the design process is centred on people and Nature.

In this regard, socialization and citizen participation are key to the generation of value-rich spaces. This is something the pioneers of placemaking have been demonstrating for decades, and which we have seen for ourselves in projects like the remodelling of the Pradogrande park in Torrelodones. A public space works not only thanks a good formal solution: it’s also necessary to include design considerations regarding its use and management by citizens, as we do with the Triple Dimension method.

Including citizen participation in public space transformation projects by means of collaborative design processes not only makes it possible to address the population’s needs and aspirations: it also offers enhances the architectural project itself in numerous ways. And it’s precisely here where the two above-mentioned factors overlap: one of the demands most habitually voiced by citizens in public space-related participative processes is for more vegetation. This was the case in several of our earlier works and it can be seen again in the report we recently elaborated for the remodelling of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in Valencia.

Over and above citizens’ requests for more greenery, one of the priorities of the Spanish Urban Agenda and of European funding for city planning initiatives is the naturalization of public spaces. Take, for example, GrowGreen, the H2020 project aimed at using nature-based solutions as the basis for urban renewal. There are also several studies which indicate that increasing the presence of Nature in cities is not only beneficial for the population’s health and wellbeing but also an excellent means of combating the climate crisis.

It would appear, then, that, apart from not addressing existing needs, a public space transformation project which does not include these two variables (people and Nature) is also aggravating the problems. We therefore need to work taking into account the conditions imposed by reality, and place people and Nature at the heart of the creative process. That way it’s possible to recover the social value of architecture and highlight its role as a tool for collectively transforming and improving our surroundings.

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor

Paisaje Transversal es una oficina de Planificación Urbana Integral que ofrece asesoría y consultoría en la transformación de las ciudades y los territorios desde una perspectiva innovadora, integral y participativa. Desde el inicio de nuestra andadura profesional a finales de 2011 hemos desarrollado más de 100 proyectos repartidos entre España, Europa y Latinoamérica.

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