Public Spaces in an Area of Tension Between Municipal and Private Influences


Following the professional discourse over the past years, one could get the impression that publicly accessible spaces are always also “public” spaces, i.e. spaces owned and used by municipalities. And, through the public-private dichotomy, privately owned spaces were seen to be the opposite of public spaces. Furthermore, it seemed that according to this black-and-white logic, there were the corresponding roles and responsibilities: municipal planners have shaping power over “public” spaces, while the markets determine the uses of “private” spaces. These views also found their expression in the debate around the “privatization” of public spaces – it seemed that what was formerly public was being transformed into private property.


However all of these pictures must be questioned: If you take a closer look, you can see that many "public spaces" in our cities are not all publicly owned. Everyday spaces, parks, and boardwalks are the products of various activities from various actors with complex and overlapping responsibilities - private actors also plan, develop, and maintain usable public spaces. Furthermore, private urban spaces are increasingly newly developed and made publicly accessible through conversion or redesign.

Investigating Usable Public Spaces More Closely

With these observations as a backdrop, the RWTH Aachen Chair for Planning Theory and Urban Development more closely investigated the meshing of municipal and non-municipal actors in the planning, development, and maintenance of usable public spaces and identified implications for planning and politics. This all took place within the framework of a project funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Differing and often contrary views give reason for discussion. It is clear that many private and public actors are involved in urban spaces - however, now the question is "How?".

Using the research results and experiences, the Chair for Planning Theory and Urban Development is hosting the international PT Congress 2012: "Public Space and Urban Governance. Challenges in the Co-production of Public Spaces in National and International Contexts." The goal is to discuss and develop possibilities and challenges in the private-municipal co-production of urban spaces in an international context.

The one day congress takes place on June 21, 2012, and allows all interested individuals from science, economy, and the public sector the chance to participate in a multinational exchange of experiences, to learn about models, to socialize and meet others, and to actively contribute to work groups and in discussions.

Presentations, keynotes, work groups, and dicussions with expert representatives from municipalities, private companies, and science in Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, France, and even Australia, Chile, and the USA are offered.

The conference is held in German. Individual program points are simultaneously offered in English.


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