Last edited 27 Feb 2020

Public realm

Public space.jpg

The term ‘public realm’ is often used loosely, sometimes interchangeably with ‘public domain’, to refer to external urban spaces that are publicly accessible.

According to English Heritage, the public realm ‘…relates to all parts of the built environment where the public has free access. It encompasses: all streets, squares, and other rights of way, whether predominantly in residential, commercial or civic uses...’

DETR defines the public realm as 'Outdoor areas in towns and cities which are accessible to the public' ref The HS2 London-West Midlands Environmental Statement, Glossary of terms and list of abbreviations, 2013.

The term can also be used as a means of describing the physical manifestation of community and of human interaction outside the private home. The ‘everyday spaces’ that are used by people to socialise, play, work, shop, traverse and use for activities such as exercise, enable social processes among residents and citizens.

Whether it is a road between rows of housing, or an urban park, the qualities of the public realm are integral to its use, and this consideration shapes the practice of placemaking.

Placemaking is a term used to describe the process by which an area in the public realm is given a unique and attractive character. For more information see: Placemaking.

NB: Cousseran says that ‘public space is a particular kind of social space created specifically for the bringing together of people, and where locals and strangers, the familiar and the unusual, can mingle freely.’ (Ref. Post-Modern Movement: The Inscribed City, in Urban Design Futures, Alain Cousseran ed Moor, Rowland, Routledge, 2006)

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