I want a conversation about public space, and I want it with the citizens of my city – ideally every single one of them . I think a lot about space and how it gets used, who owns it and who pays for it and how we can make it better, so I’d like to invite you to join the #IWantSPACE conversation and help write a Citizens Manifesto for Public Space.
Space can be free, and it could be argued that it should be, the concept of ‘the commons’ is an ancient one:
The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth.These resources are held in common, not owned privately.
However, it today’s overly commercial world, space is usually expensive and it is usually regulated by a public or private body. Take a look around at all the signs telling you how to behave in public spaces.
When space IS free and is accessible to all members of society, it creates equality and community, but sadly in many of our towns and cities it has become a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. In Liverpool we are actually selling spaces that don’t exist yet, at the same time as ignoring some of the spaces that do……
And after years of cut backs from central government and an apparent need to pretty much accept development at any cost in any part of the city, we, the citizens are often under the impression that land is public, only to find out that it is owned by a developer…..that interesting square we just walked through in fact belongs to a private corporation. Does this matter? If we are getting a better quality of space than we could have had from the public-sector purse, surely this is fine! But is it? If it’s our space and its been sold off then yes, I believe it does matter. I also believe it matters that those spaces fall under the jurisdiction of private sector regulations rather than only the statutory rules of the rest of our city.
Traditional top down approaches to development within cities take time, money and permission and yet there is a growing movement of grassroots and community led development the world over, that proves that what is really needed to create sustainable and healthy public spaces is community, creativity and commitment. It won’t be any surprise to anyone that the CEO of a social enterprise focused on placemaking and the curator of a symposium called The Maverick City believes in the latter approach.
If we all understand that high quality public spaces are good for our physical and mental health, our social interactions, reducing crime and fear of crime and an opportunity to bring in biodiversity and greenery into our urban spaces, then why do we still not fight for the quality of public space we desire or need?
So – in city of Mavericks, of opinionated individuals, active community groups and outspoken politicians, who should have a say in how our public space is designed, owned, regulated and used? I believe that the citizens should have a say and so I invite you to contribute your thoughts to a Citizens’ Manifesto for Public Space.
You can join in the conversation here, or by using #IWantSPACE on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. If you also want to tag @WeMakePlaces too that would help me find your comments. Over the next couple of months we will be using this hashtag to pose some specific questions, but for now tell us
How do YOU want to use Space in the city?