Understanding the Containment of Public Spaces: Upgrading Public Domain

Understanding the Containment of Public Spaces: Upgrading Public Domain

Robert Barelkowski

West-Pomeranian University of Technology Szczecin

3 September 2018
| Citation



Designing public spaces usually responds to social expectations and provides more rich urban environment able to accommodate various human activities. it is very important for health, well-being, and perceived quality of life of local community members. Urban design, even if purely intuitive and composition oriented may still produce attractive results, but ultimate impacts will not be seen until its implementation into physical use. therefore the introduction of analytic and decision-supporting mechanisms seem to be justified.

In this paper an approach focused on qualities and typologies confronted with multiple functions of open public spaces is considered. it attempts to answer questions concerning connection between qualitative and quantitative aspects of urban environment. within this connection parametric understanding supports the expert knowledge of designer. Multiple functions affect the efficiency of the geometry of open spaces and in turn the ability to sustain social attractiveness and usefulness of these areas. the paper will discuss problems of urban design from the perspective of intervening and designing public spaces in peripheral municipal zones in an efficient way. It proposes framework, its application, and shows specific key elements to be included in order to acquire these improvement oriented goals. 


FAST, public open spaces, sustainability, urban design analysis


[1] Nijenhuis, W., City frontiers and their disappearance. Architectural Design Profile: The Periphery, 108, pp. 13–17, 1994.

[2] Barelkowski, R., The edge of the [dis]order. WIT Transactions on Ecology and The Environment, 155, pp. 759–770, 2012.

[3] Schmidt, S. & Németh, J., Space, place and the city: emerging research on public space design and planning. Journal of Urban Design, 15(4), pp. 453–457, 2010. https://doi.org/10.1080/13574809.2010.502331

[4] Searle, J., The Construction of Social Reality, The Free Press, New York, 1995.

[5] Madanipour, A., Why are the design and development of public spaces significant for cities? Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 26, pp. 879–891, 1999. https://doi.org/10.1068/b260879

[6] Benn, S.I. & Gaus, G.F., The public and the private: concepts and action. Public and Private in Social Life, eds. S. Benn & G. Gaus, Croom Helm, London, pp. 3–30, 1983.

[7] Lynch, K., The Image of the City, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1960.

[8] Mitchell, W.J., City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1996.

[9] Cowley, R., Reframing the Problem of Public Space in the Sustainable City, RC21 International Conference on “The Ideal City: between myth and reality. ­Representations, Policies, Contradictions and Challenges for Tomorrow’s Urban Life, Urbino, Italy, pp. 1–22, 2015.

[10] Mumford, L., The City in History. Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects, A Harvest Book, Harcourt Inc., San Diego, 1989.

[11] Kostof, S., The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History, Bulfinch, Boston, 1993.

[12] Memluk, M.Z., Designing urban squares. Advances in Landscape Architecture, ed. M. Özyavuz, InTech, pp. 513–530, 2013. https://doi.org/10.5772/55826

[13] Ilja, A.M., Does public space create social capital? International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 4(2), pp. 48–53, 2012. https://doi.org/10.5897/ijsa11.084

[14] Nissen, S., Urban transformation from public and private space to spaces of hybrid character. Sociologicky časopis/Czech Sociological Review, 44(6), pp. 1129–1149, 2008.

[15] Garcia-Domenech, S., Urban aesthetics and social function of actual public space: a desirable balance. Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management, 10(4), pp. 54–65, 2015.

[16] Matyjaszkiewicz, J. & Putkowski, D., Zarys planowania przestrzennego, Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne, Warszawa, pp. 144–149, 1971.

[17] Dabrowska-Milewska, G., Standardy urbanistyczne dla terenow mieszkaniowych – wybrane zagadnienia. Architecturae et Artibus, 1/2010, pp. 17–31, 2010.

[18] Housing Quality Indicators, guidelines, latest version published May 17th, 2011, available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/housing-quality-indicators, (accessed on March 10th, 2018). Also c.f. The National Affordable Homes Agency, 721 Housing Quality Indicators (HQI) Form, Ver. 4 (For NAHP 08-11), publ. May 2007, updated April 2008, containing tables with basic explanations.

[19] E.g. meeting particular factor of sqm/person instead of assessing whether these sqm are suitable to fulfill selected conditions – this is left for “expert” evaluation performed separately.

[20] Drucker, S.J. & Gumpert, G., Public space and communication: the zoning of public interaction. Communication Theory, 1/4, pp. 294–310, 1991. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2885.1991.tb00022.x

[21] Loukaitou-Sideris, A., Cracks in the city: addressing the constraints and potentials of urban design. Journal of Urban Design, 1(1), pp. 91–104, 1996. (Schmidt, S. & Németh, J., Space, place and the city: emerging research on public space design and planning. Journal of Urban Design, 15(4), pp. 453–457, 2010). https://doi.org/10.1080/13574809608724372

[22] Barelkowski, R., FAST Matrix: Depicting the Time-Related Aspect of Urban ­Development, in C. Brebbia and W. F. Flores-Escobar (eds.), The Sustainable City X, WIT Transactions on Ecology and The Environment, 194, pp. 3–10. See pp. 6–7.

[23] Rad, V.B. & Ngah, I.B., The role of public spaces in promoting social interactions. International Journal of Current Engineering and Technology, 3(1), pp. 184–188, 2013. (See pp. 185 and 187). https://doi.org/10.1111/issj.12064

[24] Soltanian, F. & Mohammadi, A., Study of characteristics of urban public open spaces based on social interaction (Case study: Salavatabad’s 3-kilometer route). European Online Journal of Natural and Social Sciences, 4(3), pp. 553–564, 2015. (See pp. 555–556). https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-08-097086-8.03209-8

[25] Kim, S., Choi, J. & Kim, Y., Determining the sidewalk pavement width by using pedestrian discomfort levels and movement characteristics. KSCE Journal of Civil Engineering, 15(5), pp. 883–889, 2011. (Although different, simpler method is used in analysed cases to determine the width of sidewalks, Kim et al. elaboration provides very good general reference on issues to be acknowledged.) https://doi.org/10.1007/s12205-011-1173-1