BSA-FAS, Publications FAS,

werk, bauen + wohnen 6–2024

werk, bauen + wohnen 6–2024

Open Space as a Process

Public space is a continuous process. It is far more than its built components. In the form of open space, it flows around the buildings of a place or district, as a social place it needs to bedesigned and it expresses a sense of community.

There are new challenges. Barcelona’s superblocks, urban spaces in a state of transformation, are a model in Switzerland also: this autumn Basel is implementing its first superblock pilot projects in five streets in the St. Johann district, motorised traffic will be removed, green islands created, seating and play facilities will be provided, and differentiated street spaces made as places for a diverse public. The comfort of collective usability is intended to strengthen social cohesion and identification. A better quality of life in the city is the political demand — but is the population also on board? Projects of this kind can only succeed if the public is involved, a fact that is known in Basel which with 18% of the street area has the greatest superblock potential in Switzerland. It is the people in a district who through their day-to-day life, their perception and attribution shape public space and the way it develops.

In Bern and in Zurich, too, similar measures are being prepared. The improvement of the urban climate and the reduction of traffic here play a significant role. In hot summers dense urban districts gasp for a cooling breeze, shade becomes a valuable asset, and unsealed ground helps to manage rainfall. At the same time there is a need for alternative forms of mobility. Public space is far more than just an area for parked and moving cars. Why not give residents room to cycle and to stroll? Where such ideas have already been implemented the street space initially appears unfamiliar. Access for all needs to be designed — it is a conscious decision by a society about to whom it dedicates common space. Designing inclusive spaces can also mean preserving them as open space — free to be individually discovered as feel-good places, free to be appropriated and free to share. — Lucia Gratz

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