Presentation of the Public Space’s Service System Project
Recognizing public spaces’ importance, it is necessary to better evidence what it does serve for: its services or benefits, as a principle in evaluating the return of social value, of economic, political, emotional investments, how it is produced, how it is organized and how it is related to the actors.
Almost forty years ago, Kevin Lynch analyzed public spaces for their image qualities: vitality, identity, pleasantness, readability, diversity … Until today, methods do not vary much because of the frequent consideration for new “qualities” that ‘good public space’ is supposed to posess. In the end, Lynch was in fact criticizing his own construct:
The ‘perceptual qualities’ of ‘mental image’ can be opposing each other, or be illusory. So, how to evaluate them? Quality indicators, which only sometimes refer to the “public”, have to accept that there are many types of “publics”, and that space “value” is more than the sum of spatial diverse “qualities” (diverse interests, will find in public space different value). Thus, the evaluation must interpret space, clarifying the multiplicity and variability of services provided by it and demonstrate the values that are involved and the system that organizes them.
We can thus look at public spaces as part of a system (like other urban systems, infra-structural landscape…) and consider in their potential validation, systems’ physical or relational factors: production, organization, limits, context, connectivity, actors, values, services, representations.
This project’s fundamentals are:
• “Space construction” deals with urban public space systems and the practices of “right to the city” (H. Lefebvre), both on Hardware and Software.
• Interdisciplinary mode is the assuming of the subjectivities in the multi-dimensional rational, making cross-evaluations, of different realities (and their actors).
• The interaction process requires a common language to translate values and meanings of space, as a service of public benefit. To interpret the public space system we can’t isolate… nor eliminate variables, unless we integrate them… in the process.
Public space evaluation – concepts and tools
“Instituto Superior Técnico. Lisboa”
What is the evaluation perspective of PSSS? Of course, the premises that we start to build are at the base of the evaluation framework:
– a broad notion of value, integrating tangible, intangible and contextual aspects,
– evaluation as learning and interpretation – works, what fails and its dynamics,
– integrate the diversity of actors by accepting differences of opinion and value judgments.
Focus of evaluation shall be in basic questions, that can be simplified as “what is public space for”, including the benefits that public spaces provides, in response to a population needs including different actors, accepting differences of opinion and value judgments. The referential, in itself, includes concepts that define the method, integrating System, Service, Actors and Value.
Its contents occupy five areas of application objectives: 1. Urban context in which it is established, 2. Identification (type, limits, elements, organization…), 3. Interpretation, as analysis of problems, 4. Reflection on contradictions, difficulties, potentiality/conflict 5. Possibilities definition/strategy.
The expected results with the proposal of a “toolbox” for this project, aims to clarify problems in public space, identifying deficits and opportunities, with the proposal of alternatives in process and in solutions from space service, to facilitate communication between different types of actors, by integrating them in evaluation.
The experiences of using these concepts and tools (in the Metropolitan Areas of Lisbon and Porto, in Barcelona (Bom Pastor) and in Antofagasta (Chile) in different urban contexts, types of spaces and actors, are exemplified and discussed in the following presentation
Antofagasta, a context of local and global public space
Antofagasta has become in recent years in the city with the highest population (361,873) in northern Chile. It concentrates large part of economic activity, is the second region with more foreign investment and the first in exports. There’s a huge difference, between poverty measured by salaries (4%), and multidimensional poverty (health + education + work + housing) that affects more than 20% of the population. The divergence between economic growth and social development, compared to cities with the same GDP per capita (e.g. Barcelona), will explain part of the motives for urban image, translated in public space.
The urban area of Antofagasta, a narrow strip between the sea and the ‘cordillera’, with 27km in the north/south direction and an approximate length of 2.5km, is an urban landscape developed between the aridity of the driest desert in the world and the seafront condition affected by the train line route that crosses and divides it. Regarding sub-structuration, pollution of the air and waters, the management of urban waters and residues, the open-air rubbish, the scarce service of collective mobility and the abandoned dogs abounds…
An economy of mining monoproduction originates an immigrant labor force, a floating population that seeks the city for its salaries, not identifying with the place it inhabits and not taking care of it as its own. Different urban realities, such as the ‘camps’ in the upper part of the city, in front of the sea and historical center and margins of the city made of deteriorated and hostile fabrics, without any physical and symbolic continuity in their public spaces.
If we question Urban Planning Tools and their role in Public Space management, it is true that the city has a variety of public spaces, from the streets and squares, although the desert still exists, parks and gardens try to domesticate the aridity of the region or the waterfront walk lanes with hard floors and exuberant colors… From 1998 the city is an object of several urban studies aiming for the renovation of its historic center and waterfront, which have allowed changes on the city face and the coastal edge improved population accessibility to the sea, decontamination of coastal areas, building of incorporated cycling paths, artificial beaches and remodeling of Municipal Spa, as well as constructing footpaths in the historic center refurbishment of the Paseos, Plazas and other foundational meeting spaces. At the port area, the first private project, a Mall and its large ‘plaza’ emerged.
Today a set of urban plans is in force – the “Communal Regulatory Plan” of 2002 altered and updated by other plans, of 2004 / 2005. Plans that motivate interventions in city’s public spaces so as to dynamize and valorize the territory, attracting public and activities. They are generally obsolete plans even before their implementation, due to their formulation time and the rigid structure they propose to deal with problems of urban design and public space. But in this first urban renewal phase in Antofagasta with spaces damaged and abandoned due to lack of maintenance, the need for economic spaces sustainability is now foreseen, giving rise now to a second regeneration (2013-2022) that recognizes the lack of a “Master Plan Study and Management Plan for Public Spaces and Green Areas”.
It is in this general picture that we can reflect on PSSS relevant evaluation concepts, their adaptation to realities, which in some aspects are different from what is now mainstream in the culture of public space evaluation.