Annual Report for 2019

Organized by Christine Mady and Ceren Sezer, in collaboration with further TG PSUC members


Public Spaces and Urban Cultures (PSUC) is a thematic group established in April 2010 with the initiative of Sabine Knierbein (Associate Professor, TU Vienna, Austria), Ceren Sezer (Architect and urban planner, TU Delft) and Chiara Tornaghi (Reader, Coventry University, United Kingdom). The main aim of the group is to generate an international and interdisciplinary exchange between the research and practices on public spaces and urban cultures. By doing so, it aims to support research, planning and a design agenda within the AESOP community, and beyond. 

In 2019, the Group continued its endeavors to involve practitioners, academics, governmental and non-governmental professionals, and further interest groups into the TG’s activities and exchange of knowledge across disciplines and domains of action through meetings, workshops, conferences and roundtables. During 2019, the group’s membership rose to over 100 professionals working with public space, including practitioners and researchers, from both Europe and beyond.

Internal organization of the group 

A collective made up of group members organizes the activities of the PSUC. Some of the tasks of the core group are: to establish the Group’s agenda (working topics, calls, meetings); to manage communication via various media (homepage, blog, Facebook, mailing list, newsletter) among the Group’s members; to prepare meeting and annual reports; to disseminate scientific results; to promote a strong involvement into research and publication affairs; as well as towards a broader audience and the AESOP Secretary General.

The internal organization of the group is structured as follows: 

Group Coordination: 2019-2021 Ceren Sezer (Main Coordinator, The Netherlands), Christine Mady (Second Coordinator, Lebanon); 2017-2019 Gabriella Esposito De Vita (Main Coordinator), Ceren Sezer (Second Coordinator, The Netherlands). 

Active members: Katarzyna Bartoszewicz (Poland), (Nadia Charalambous (UK), Gabriella Esposito De Vita (Italy), Sabine Knierbein (Austria), Elina Kranzle (Austria), Christine Mady (Lebanon), Veronika Mazurkiewicz (Poland), Matej Niksic (Slovenia), Stefania Ragozino (Italy), Nikolai Roskamm (Germany), Mohamed Saleh (The Netherlands), Sara Santos Cruz (Portugal), Ceren Sezer (The Netherlands), Socrates Stratis (Cyprus), Tihomir Viderman (Germany), Burcu Yigit Turan (Sweden). 

Advisory Board: Ali Madanipour (University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK); Sophie Watson (Open University, UK); Sabine Knierbein (TU Vienna, Austria); Gabriella Esposito De Vita (CNR-IRISS National Research Council of Italy, since July 2019).

The list of members who (co-)organized meetings in 2019 

Patricia Aelbrecht (UK), Ceren Sezer (The Netherlands), Workshop of Knowledge Exchange between Research and Practice on ‘Public Space Design with Social Cohesion and Intercultural Dialogue in mind’, 15 May 2019, Cardiff University. 

Ceren Sezer (The Netherlands), Gabriella Esposito DeVita (Italy), Stefania Ragozino (Italy), Track #15, Tourism, public spaces and urban cultures during the AESOP 2019 Annual Meeting in Venice “Planning for Transition”, 9-13 July 2019, Venice (Italy)

Group’s activities in 2019 

This year was dedicated to conclude the working theme Unstable Geographies – Dislocated Publics and start the new one Public Spaces: Knowledge transition between Research, Policy and Practice. 

Developing the umbrella topic “Public Spaces: Knowledge transition between Research, Policy and Practice” 

Public space has received increasing attention in urban research, policy and public debate. This is evident in the growing academic literature on the themes related to public space, including accessibility, healthy living, inclusiveness, democracy, urban justice, self-organization, social movements and other. The 2016 UN Habitat Conference, Habitat III, adopted what is called The New Urban Agenda, which focused on public space as a promoter of ‘inclusive, connected, safe and accessible’ cities (UN Habitat, 2016). UN Habitat’s public space programme operates in various countries to promote the design and management of public spaces through participatory approaches engaging different stakeholders. Other initiatives include the Project for Public Space (PPS) Placemaking approach, which has been adopted in several cities. The contributors to public space provision go beyond state actors to include panoply of residents, activists and different combinations of interest groups.

 Within this context, one realises the shifting boundaries and roles of public spaces that include: self-organization in reclaiming public spaces on the one hand and market-led celebration for economic attractiveness as well as political manipulation of the public realm for undemocratic purposes on the other hand, with several shades in the middle. This complexity requires relational perspectives to analyse these spaces as well as further proposals for transdisciplinary methods, which are very much needed to engage knowledge, concepts and theories from various disciplines, allowing them to permeate policy-making and practice processes in different contexts.

 To this end, the working theme poses the question: which actors and which transdisciplinary methods can engage knowledge on public spaces in a transformative manner that directly influences public space policy and practice processes towards meeting the role of promoter of ‘inclusive, connected, safe and accessible’ cities?

The AESOP Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures develop this working theme addressing the following topics:

  • Changing typologies and roles of players and actors: multiplicity of publics and public space cultures, arenas for rebuilding participation
  • Public spaces and changes: climate change, social movements, circular economy
  • Changing needs and roles: homelessness, refugees, immigrants and integration, age, gender, social, cultural, ethnic and religious considerations and urban justice
  • Questioning the global north-south divide and public space dynamics
  • Changing environmental awareness: public space as a buffer zone, contribution to public health (mental and physical well-being)
  • Changing intangible cultural heritage: adapting the genius loci to multiple and dynamic cultural identities 

Productive steps in 2019 

15th May 2019

AESOP TG PSUC Workshop, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Workshop of Knowledge Exchange between Research and Practice on ‘Public Space Design with Social Cohesion and Intercultural Dialogue in mind’


Over the last two decades, societies worldwide are facing serious challenges to achieve social cohesion. A context of rising diversity, austerity and a series of ethnic conflicts and terrorist attacks have brought about a culture of fear, intolerance and distrust of strangers in our everyday public spaces. This context has led to a series of top-down and bottom-up experiments in public space design and management seeking to promote social cohesion and intercultural dialogue. To date there have been few efforts to evaluate the outcomes of these experiments and to understand if and how social cohesion and intercultural dialogue have been realized.

This workshop brings together academics, practitioners and policy-makers to share their knowledge and experience around this subject, and identify where new knowledge is needed in terms of public space theory, practice and policy. It seeks to develop an international network of expertise to support and expand future collaborations in intercultural public space research, practice and policy.

The workshop begins with a series of short presentations by the invited speakers outlining their varied research and practice insights on the subject, followed by a discussion.

Invited Speaker:

Jane Dann, Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, London

Ceren Sezer, TU Delft & AESOP Public Spaces and Urban Cultures Thematic Group

Melissa Meyer, Regeneration & Economic Development, Greater London Authority

Noha Nasser, MELA, London

Anna Mansfield, Publica, London


9th-13th July 2019

AESOP Annual Congress Venice 2019

Track #15, Tourism, public spaces and urban cultures


The track #15, Tourism, public spaces and urban cultures was co-chaired by Ceren Sezer  (The Netherlands), Gabriella Esposito De Vita (Italy), and Stefania Ragozino (Italy) and included 73 papers that were presented in the following sessions: opening session, public space focus 1&2, public space inclusivity, urban creativity, historic cities, place-based approaches, focus on streets, tourism focus, urban regeneration, communities, urban forms.


Over the last decade, public spaces have received an attention more than ever in urban research, policy and public debates as a facilitator of diverse, equal and democratic urban cultures. These debates are underlined by the decline of welfare state model and a rise in the neo-liberal approach to urban development to promote city’s position in global competitiveness in order to achieve its economic success and prosperity. Among others, tourism has been seen as one of the key drivers of economic success. This implies that investments are not evenly distributed at the city level but concentrated in some selected parts of the city, such as historical city parts, waterfronts, business hubs for finance and high-tech industries, and neighbourhoods for creative industries. Some of the consequences of these developments are: social and spatial segregation, lack of public participation in the urban planning and design processes, gentrification in the central neighbourhoods, privatisation and control of urban space, marginalization of some social groups based on their gender, race and

religion, dislocation of neighbourhood residents, and lack of accessibility and distribution of amenities.

This track welcomes theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions addressing the role of public spaces in promoting a diverse, equal and democratic urban cultures, including, but not limited to the following aspects:

  • public space between global and local mobility
  • tangible and intangible heritage and public space
  • urban change and public spaces in transition
  • urban spatial and social justice
  • tourism and impact urban transformation
  • social innovations
  • centre-periphery relations and imbalances
  • gentrification,
  • circular and sharing economy models and tourism
  • self-organization and democratic place-making processes
  • environmental dimension of urban public space



public spaces, urban culture, tourism, touristification, economy of tourism, place-making, self-organization, environmental resources, place-branding, aging society, youth unemployment