A Placemaking Journal
Res Civitas non-Gratis: 21st century public realm
Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ’em down for your consideration.
The rise of 21st century social technology, in combination with the loss of our 20th century economy, has contributed to the closing of many neighborhood civic buildings — libraries and post offices — and to the private development that inevitably replaces them.
As Leon Krier has rightly pointed out, we live our daily lives in both private and social realms. Our social lives are built upon the social connectivity that occurs in our civic spaces and institutions. Streets and sidewalks make the majority of our public realm, and we spend too much of that time in isolated, high-speed automobiles. Our streets and sidewalks are in a woeful shape and we lack the infrastructure funding to maintain them, thus a further degradation of the public realm.
With churches, social clubs, shops, restaurants and bars being private, and public/private partnerships being relied upon to build our parks, plazas and gathering places, we appear to have passed a tipping point — one that the Occupy Wall Street episode captured so vividly as it unfolded in NYC’s private/public Zuccotti Park.
It is time to discuss and investigate the meaning of civic in the 21st century. Below is how I would craft a new era of civic space in the 21st century.
How would you?
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