2016-17 Essay Topic
The Power of Public Space
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, they 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 UN-Habitat’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.
Your challenge: Your challenge is to include in your future city a distributed network of innovative, multiuse public spaces that serves your city’s diverse population.