Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Public Realm and Participation

Almost all we do as professional Planners, and the related urban design disciplines of Architecture; Engineering; and Landscape Architecture; influences the use and development of the PUBLIC realm.

The PUBLIC realm is defined by the streets, structures, and spaces that make up our communities. Through the sometimes wonderful work of these urban design professionals, we create place from space, and in turn great PUBLIC realms within which to live. Unfortunately this is more often, not the case. As the great urban designer, and "mentor" of the Project for Public Places, William H. Whyte pointed out:

"It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”

I believe much of this is the result of ineffective PUBLIC engagement from which we urban designers should be learning, and through which we should be teaching. Unfortunately the PUBLIC engagement methods used are not always appropriate or effective.

I have identified a number of issues relating to poor PUBLIC processes including problems with: information access; elitism; ineffective process design; physical location; timing; poor communication methods, and many others. These all reduce the potential success of the project at hand and the livability of the communities they influence. I have seen this first hand in both Canada and the US, in municipal governments both large and small; regional governments; State and Provincial organizations; private developers and non-profits.

CIVIC BLOGGER was developed by myself and my good friend and colleague Cac. We intend to use CIVIC BLOGGER to explore these issues, develop solutions, and spur on change.

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