Temporary public space


In the last decades the use of public space in cities changed fundamentally. Not only parts were transformed from car-dominated spaces into pedestrian areas, as occurred in many historical urban spaces (squares, streets), but also the dynamic of urban life has changed. New uses, such as large public events, cultural, shopping or leisure activities and touristic consumerism rapidly entered and modified the spirit and functionality of existing urban areas. In many cities the public space outside central areas is also being discovered as a space where many social activities can take place. Streets can be used in a temporary manner, at different moments: monthly for a local market, weekly as a Play street, and a few hours each day exclusively for schools (mornings and afternoons). Also, parks provide space for all kind of activities: leisure, sport, playing, music and economic activities can take place there. All temporary uses that contribute to urban life.

Although a temporary approach to public space can enlarge the possibilities of its use and meaning, it is not very common to take this into account in public space design or plan. Moreover, standard design manuals and regulations are still based on functional segregation, resulting often in fixed spatial solutions that are still dominated by traffic engineering logics, especially for streets. The historical assumptions of these manuals make them quite inflexible and limited concerning possible new uses, social trends or new technologies.
Temporary uses on public spaces, such as markets and cultural events, are, of course, not new. However, temporary uses are not always taken into account when design assignments are constructed. In this, traffic is still a very dominant aspect. Unforeseen temporary use of space is hardly an issue at the level of the assignment brief.

This academic communication presents an overview of public space ´projects´ where ´temporary use´ forms part of the design approach. This overview is structured by two scale types: spatial scale (size: small – medium – large) and time scale (just-do-it – temporary – structural). The main objective is to demonstrate and to construct a spectrum of actual possibilities by showcasing twenty real (temporary) initiatives and projects in various urban environments. Each example highlights one possible temporary use. All examples together give us a range of alternatives, including relevant aspects for public space design. Aspects as multi-functionality, flexibility and adaptability are important parameters, as well as design aspects that are not focused on a single use alone, but are open for many uses, in parallel or at the same time. Within this look, spaces with a (semi) collective character, such as outdoor school areas or open courtyards, can be also be read as public space.


Project: research | Team: Daniel Casas-Valle, Giacomo Gallo, Bruno Moreira, Lucas Carneiro| Year: 2018