Public Interspaces


How can architecture and urban design accommodate and represent public life in the urban spaces of the global network society? The aim of this project is to develop the concept of 'public interspaces' in order to provide architects and urban planners with a useful tool to meet this challenge.

Urban public space has been considered the authentic locus of the political interface, and thus, as a prerequisite for the community life of the polis. Here people appear to each other in their plurality and confer in an unrestricted manner. Since the ancient Greeks and their agora, urban public space was the spatial reflection of the notion of the public sphere, the transformation of which in modernity has been investigated by Habermas.

This “polis ideal” deeply influenced modernist architecture and urban planning wanting to articulate social interaction in architectural form. The actual topoi of this modern utopian faith, however, seem to “project a sense of isolation, separateness and solitude” (Pallasmaa). Perhaps are we, as Foucault famously tried to show, “much less Greeks than we believe”.

Thus, for several decades now, more responsive urban designs have been sought. Critical positions have characterised the urban situation (rather than object) as dynamic, unstable, diverse, ambiguous, connected, polycentric, dissimilar, volatile, open-ended, as described by Venturi, Davis, Soja, Koolhaas, Eisenmann, and others, who call for strategies based on a fluid, non-foundational spatiality of “transitions, passages, ‘tendencies’” (Deleuze).

This project investigates representations of an “overtransparent” (Vattimo) urban public spatiality, and its place in the ecomomy and interaction of the increasingly virtual, interconnected global network society (Castells), in which “substances, essences and all" seem to dissolve into webs of relations.

Urban public spaces and their uses and meanings in people’s everyday life have been investigated since the late 1950s. However, the recent changes in the connections between the public sphere and its spatial representation are in need of research. Thus, some argue that commercialisation, privatisation and securitisation threatens “the open city” (Christiaanse) and its quality urban public spaces as did modernist reduction. If urban design should not, as Stephen Read remarks, disdain “a vision of a sustaining and negotiated social place as romantic in these fast and connected times,” and give in to the “regime of atomization, regulation, rationalization and control,” an attempt to rethink public interspaces seems pertinent.

As the original idea of the polis no longer seems adequate in today’s global network society; a dynamic conceptualisation is thus required that seeks to link contemporary theory with practical purposes.

Effective start/end date01/12/201003/12/2013


  • public space, public sphere, urban, architecture, urban planning, urban sociology, philosophy, critical theory