Public Spaces: Knowledge transition between Research, Policy and Practice

Public space has received increasing attention in urban research, policy, and practice. 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 among others. 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). A New York-based NGO, Project for Public Space,developed aplacemaking approach to improve public spaces, which has been adopted in many cities. Neighbourhood organizations, local interest groups, cultural minorities, or politically oriented pressure groups manifested their needs and interests and reclaim public spaces specifically in the context of profit-oriented urban developments.

More importantly, the traditional understanding of public space as a place, which provides anonymity has also been shifted. The development of communication technologies and the spread in ownership and use of mobile phones have blurred the public and private quality of public spaces. This complexity requires transdisciplinary methods to analyse public spaces to be able to engage knowledge, concepts and theories of public spaces from various perspectives and inform and influence policy-making and practice in different contexts.

To this end, the call poses the question: which actors and transdisciplinary methods on public spaces can inform policy and practices to promote ‘inclusive, connected, safe and accessible’ cities?

Proposals should present how in a series of meetings/workshops/conferences/capacity building programs/urbanlabs or other formats, participants from academia (universities and research institutes), policy, practice and civic society among other, could engage towards contributions to the call’s theme, and arrive at tangible, synergetic output on the integration of public space knowledge within policy and practice. Discussions would revolve around both established and emerging theories and methods, and identify where new ‘transdisciplinary’ knowledge is needed to make a leap forward.

The AESOP Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures invites proposals that address but are not limited to 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 role of public spaces in political conflict zones;
  • 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;
  • The impact of technological innovation on public space research and practice.

 The interested institutions can send their proposals to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. until the 15th of February 2020.  The proposal should not exceed 1000 words and include: 

  • Name of institution and department;
  • Name and e-mails of contact person or persons;
  • A provisional title and brief thematic description of the meeting in relation to the theme of the call;
  • Proposed format of the meeting (e.g. workshop, conference, expert meeting);
  • Proposed dates of the meeting (to be negotiated);
  • If applicable, provisional names for the keynote speakers.
  • Proposed draft budget

AESOP Thematic Group meetings are free of charge for its participants. Participants cover their costs for travelling and accommodation. 

The selected candidates will be announced on the 15th of March 2020.

For questions, please contact Ceren Sezer (RWTH Aachen University): This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.