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Why Public Space?, presentation of the European Prize for Urban Public Space

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Why Public Space?, presentation of the European Prize for Urban Public Space

Participants: David Bravo Bordas, Spain and Darko Polic, Serbia
Moderator: Ivan Kucina

With ideas of equality, plurality and progress constituting part of its very foundations, the European city is today facing new challenges arising from its exponential growth and increasing social and cultural complexity. Some of society’s main problems are expressed in its public spaces: segregation, rampant construction and deficiencies in guaranteeing the rights to housing and to the city, are some of the phenomena that are putting into jeopardy the ideal of the open and democratic community that has always been so distinctive of the European city.

The European Prize for Urban Public Space, established in 2000 is a biennial competition that aims to recognise and encourage the creation, recovery and improvement of public space in the understanding that the state of public space is a clear indicator of the civic and collective health of our cities. The program is organized by the Contemporary Culture Centre of Barcelona (CCCB), and is part of a collaboration between seven institutions across Europe: Barcelona: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), Frankfurt: Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), Helsinki: Museum of Finnish Architecture (MFA), Ljubljana: Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO), London: The Architecture Foundation (AF), Paris: La Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (Cité) and Vienna: Architekturzentrum Wien (Az W).

“However, when we begin to probe the concept of public space a little, we realise that it is impossible to pigeonhole it into specific formal typologies. What happens, for example, to the canonical square when there is a curfew? Its physical and geometrical properties are not in the least altered and yet no one would hesitate in denying it the condition of public space. Whatever its name may seem to indicate, public space is not a geometric, Cartesian and objective framework, nor even a physical, material and tangible container. It is a subjective place, loaded with political content, which implies urbanity or, in other words, it is defined by the fact of coexistence in community and hence by awareness of ourselves and respect for others. It is, like democracy, something fragile and intangible that comes about intermittently. And, just as a parliament isn’t democracy, the square isn’t public space: in fact, both reside in the civic consciousness of citizens.“

(From the text “The flâneur’s surprise“, David Bravo Bordas, 2011)

  • Cultural Centre of Belgrade, Artget Gallery, The Republic Square 5

  • Friday, 16 May 2014
    Presentation of the European Prize for Urban Public Space
    6.00 – 6.45 pm