For Quality of Life
in Our Towns and Cities
The urban realm is the public realm. Urban space is public space.
Public spaces consists of the spaces (streets, squares, alleys) between buildings that are accessible to all. The freedom of access that we all have to public spaces is what enables them to perform a very special and important role in our lives.
As public urban spaces are formed by the space between and around collections of individual buildings, the separate design of each of those buildings is important to the overall quality of the space. If we think of urban spaces, large or small, they are what they are by virtue of the assemblage of buildings that make them up. As examples, we may for instance think of, in grand fashion, Trafalgar Square or, in more intimate form, of a favourite street or market square near where we live.
Belief in the importance of public space is central to traditional architecture. Traditional buildings respect their context and their neighbouring buildings so that they can contribute to the urban environment in general.
But public space comes to mean more than just attractive, functional space where we can enjoy ourselves or work and trade. It comes to represent in physical form our sense of community and society. The development of good urban space is not just an architectural programme. It is also a societal programme. This wider meaning of public spaces is often heightened by the incorporation of monuments or monumental buildings within them.
Public space in the latter half of the twentieth century often became neglected and the emphasis shifted to the proclamation of private space in the urban arena. Buildings were designed more as individualistic statements sometimes deliberately denying the need for any role in the public space. The result was in many cases a disruption of the urban fabric and a degrading of much loved urban places.
But of recent years, a “New Urbanism” movement has grown up in America and Europe that seeks to re-establish the primacy of public urban space. It also seeks to robustly face up to the many problems of the modern city, such as its overcrowding, relentless expansion and transport difficulties.
Good urbanism is a vital ingredient of modern living and modern society. Only traditional architecture is wholly committed to the development of the urban realm and understands the principles that are necessary to carry this development through successfully.