Guest editors:

Matej Nikšič, Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Gabriel Pascariu, University of Architecture and Urbanism Ion Mincu, Bucharest, Romania

Ceren Sezer, Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands

Public Spaces and Urban Justice

Many of the contemporary cities are predominantly shaped by profit-oriented developments in order to achieve economic success and international competition. This is mainly motivated by the global economic model that requires marketing strategies to promote the city into a growth machine (Engelen et. al. 2014, Fainstein 2010, Harvey 2013). Such a vision served to legitimatise costly interventions in prestige developments such as stadiums, inner city historical areas, waterfronts, business hubs for finance, high-tech industries and neighbourhoods for creative industries (Zukin 1995). This implies that in order to support the city’s economic prosperity and global competiveness, the investments were not evenly distributed across the cities but concentrated in some selected areas of a city (Graham & Marvin 2001).

All these processes constitute conditions for the transformation of a city into a more unjust, socially, spatially and economically fragmented form, respectably from the following two aspects:

First is the uneven distribution of wealth, goods, opportunities and general well-being across the urban landscape and populations (Rawls 2071). Privatization in the housing market, increasing land prices, the use of public resources for a limited group of users, customising infrastructural developments for investment enclaves, the proliferation of expensive residential high towers and improvements to enable higher qualities of life in dedicated areas illustrate such a phenomenon. These developments do not only create fragmented city parts, but also cause environmental hazard (Graham and Marvin, 2001; Harvey 2013).

Second is the marginalization of urban groups resulted in: the exclusion of urban poor from privatized social housing market and public spaces, the systematic shrinkage in labour market for certain job skills, the stigmatization of cultural minorities, who do not fit into the development agendas (Zukin 1995). All these processes limit the opportunities for the self-development of individuals or groups and threaten conditions for well-being (Yiftachel et. al. 2009; Young 1990).

In this context, we approach to urban public spaces as grounds to challenge conditions of injustice that threaten the contemporary cities. We imagine the public spaces as places for an expression of urban citizenship. By citizenship, we mean the practices of articulating, claiming and renewing group rights for more fair distribution of goods, services and opportunities, as well as for (co) creation of places (Harvey 2013; Isin 2000; Lefevbre 2003). These can be achieved, for example, through social movements or creative strategies to resist oppressive trends. Such a perspective also opens up the possibility to think about the public space as a platform to access to the public and other amenities. This is clearly connected to mobility patterns, as well as the knowledge and information technologies that support communal cooperation and self-organization (Graham & Marvin 2001). This implies in the end that the old bitten tracks of public space provision as a part of urban planning and design processes need to be challenged.

Given the above, the main question of this issue is: What role can public spaces play in order to achieve a just city?

We propose to approach this question from three different but interrelated perspectives:

  1. Public space and representation: What would be the ways of enhancing the quality of public spaces in order to provide opportunities for the marginalized urban groups in claiming their rights in the city?
  2. Public space and the distribution of wealth in the city: How can the public space be differently envisioned so that the uneven distribution of wealth in the city could be mitigated?
  3. Public space and social cohesion: What would be the ways of enhancing the role of public space to support social cohesion between different urban groups in the context of spatially segregated city?

Our main intention in this special issue thus, is to draw together contributors and case studies from different urban contexts in order to explore and understand what role the public spaces can play to challenge the conditions of injustice in the contemporary city.



Engelen, E., Johal, S., Salento, A., Williams, K. (2014). How to built a fairer city. The Guardian, 24 September.

Fainstein, S. S. (2010) The Just City. New York: Cornell University.
Fincher, R., Iveson, K.(2008) Diversity in Planning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Graham, S., Marvin, S.(2001) Splintering Urbanism. London and New York: Routledge.

Harvey, D. (2013) Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso. Harvey, D. (1973) Social Justice and the City. Oxford: Blackwell.

Isin, E. (2000) ‘Introduction: democracy, citizenship, and the global city’, in E. Isin (ed) Democracy, Citizenship, and the Global City. London: Routledge.

Lefevbre, H. (2003) The Urban Revolution, trans. Robert Bononno, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Mitchell, D (2003). The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space, New York: The Guildford Press.

Rawls, J.(1971) A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Soja, E. (2010) Seeking Spatial Justice, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota press.

Yiftachel,O, Goldhaber,R. Nuriel, R (2009). “Urban Justice and recognition: Affirmation and Hostility in Beer Sheva” in Connolly, J., Novy, J. Olivo, I. Potter, C. and Steil, J. (eds) Searching for the Just city. London and New York: Routledge.

Young, I.M. (1990). Justice ad the Politics of Difference. Princeton ad New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Zukin, S. (1995). The Cultures of Cities. Massachusetts and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.


Guidelines for abstracts

Interested professionals from the practical and academic fields are invited to submit an abstract of maximum 350 words to the e-mail address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The abstracts should include:

-       Title, key words

-       Author’s name, current affiliation and e-mail address

-       Research question, methodology, findings of the research

-       Maximum five key references

-       Short bibliography and list of recent publications of the author(s)

-       Two photos at a good resolution (200dpi) illustrating the contents of the proposed contribution


The deadline for abstract submission is June 1, 2015. After preliminary review by the special issue and BE editors, the selected authors will be invited to submit full proposals by July 15, 2015 and full papers by September 30, 2015. The publication will be launched in July 2016.

 For any further information please use the e-mail address stated above.