Friday 6 November, 21.30 until 23.00, Maus Hábitos, Rua Passos Manuel 178, 4º Piso, 4000-382 Porto International Satellites
Tickets: €3, pay on the door. Attend this event and What is creativity? for €5.
After much talk in recent years of the public sphere moving online, there’s a resurgence of interest in the physical world. ‘Public spaces, not virtual town squares, are still the places where uprisings are decided’, declared the New York Times of the events that took place in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring. In many cities, it is culture and heritage that have provided a framework for public space interventions. From Paphos to Porto, whether it is UNESCO protected heritage centres or EU-funded Capital of Culture initiatives, municipalities and architects focus on public space design, streetscaping and pedestrianisation schemes as a way to promote and develop city life. The result, claims Porto Mayor Rui Moreira, is that ‘people are going back to public space’ and we are seeing the emergence of the ‘post-Facebook society’.
For critics, however, many regeneration initiatives mean cities are merely becoming gentrified and privatised, raising questions as to who is benefiting from the public investment. After all, if culture and heritage are merely seen as a route to urban competitiveness, is there not a risk that cities become merely profit-oriented, with market exchange and touristic development taking priority over building communities and boosting civic creativity? And given the rise of gated communities and exclusive areas dominated by restaurants and bars, is the collective commons fragmenting into elite urban spaces on one hand, and left-over space for the disenfranchised on the other?
Yet the question remains as to what actually is public space and who is it for? Writer Anna Minton’s essay on the Creative Commons advocates for a ‘public good’ based on the reinvention of the common interest, which should emphasise ‘the social value and social consequences of schemes for communities’. But who is to determine what these values are? Is common consent the same as democratic legitimacy? Hannah Arendt wrote that public space is where people act rather than work: ‘it is a space where political action takes place urged by freedom and the need for self-realisation of the individual’. But if public space is the arena where we, the public, make something of ourselves, then do we really need public authorities to cultivate engagement through public space? To what extent can public space create a public? Should public space have to bear this burden at all?
graphic designer; CEO, Circus Network
associate director, Future Cities Project; architecture programme manager, British Council
partner, aNC arquitectos
chief curator, Lisbon Architecture Triennale
chairman, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)
Monocle films visits Porto to discover how one city leader is determined to stop gentrification destroying his city.Cesare Serventi with Gillian Dobias, Monocle, July 2015
Portugal's government has approved amendments to the law on tobacco that foresee the prohibition of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine and of smoking in all closed public spaces.TPN/ LUSA, The Portugal News, 25 April 2015
Ultimately, it’s not only about how much a city has by way of streets, but also what a city – and its residents – do with them.Greg Scruggs, Next City, 7 January 2015
Laws handing sweeping new powers to police and private security to restrict access to public space are extinguishing the diversity of civic life.Josie Appleton, OpenDemocracy, 20 January 2014
Located in one of the city's historical neighbourhoods, Artéria's Manifesto Building proposes a model for an integrated urban rehabilitation, encompassing social, cultural and economical interventions: a holistic approach that involves the local community.Inês Revés, Domus, 8 February 2013
The contribution public spaces make to community life, and how people use them.Ken Worpole and Katharine Knox, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 24 April 2007
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