Students write a 1,500-word essay describing the unique attributes of their city and provide a solution to this year’s challenge:The Power of Public Space.
Imagine what it would be like to walk down the main street of a city 100 years in the future. What would you hear, see, smell, and feel? How would the people who live in the future city describe it? What would visitors say about it? How is it different from cities of today? What makes it futuristic and innovative? The City Essay gives students a place to think about questions like these. It is a place where they can bring their city to life!
The single most important ingredient in any city is people. And people need a variety of public spaces throughout their city, both indoors and outdoors, where they can meet, relax, play, learn, connect, share cultures, create community, and build civic identity. When city planners and engineers develop public spaces, they don’t just consider open fields or existing parks and plazas. They look at sites such as abandoned buildings, old railway lines, waterways (rivers, lakes, ponds), former industrial areas, and the single largest land asset in any city—the streets and sidewalks.
Public spaces, both small and large, indoors and outside, not only make an urban area more attractive and more livable but also serve as an anchor that benefits cities in a variety of ways. Many public space projects revitalize a city’s economy by introducing new businesses and bringing in new visitors. Other public space projects help reduce crime, ease traffic congestion, improve pedestrian safety, promote healthy living, improve the environment, and enhance civic engagement. In fact, a recent study by the UNHabitat’s Global Urban Observatories Unit found that cities that devoted about 50% of their space to public use tended to be more prosperous and have a higher quality of life.
The students’ challenge: Design a Future City that includes a distributed network of innovative, multiuse public spaces that serves their city’s diverse population.
Before students get started, be sure to do the following:
For more on the City Essay, download the Program Handbook from the Resource section.
Big thanks to our friends at Project for Public Spaces for their help with this year's theme!