This one day event will bring together academics (from diverse disciplines) and practitioners to explore the current challenges facing, and ways of reinvigorating, urban public space. It will explore both a number of contemporary themes and the manner in which these are played out in different types of public spaces – such as parks and green spaces; brownfield regeneration areas; market areas; and commercial and retail zones. Our intention is to deliver the conference around these significant themes and to provide a forum to debate current issues and explore new collaborations. Potential questions for consideration include how might urban space be thought about and used in the future? What purposes might public space seek to secure? What are the core values of ‘publicness’ in public spaces? And how do public spaces become sustainable?
The conference has been organised around the following key objectives:
- to build new and enhance existing relations with external partners working in the design, management and governance of public space
- to foster inter-disciplinary conversations and public debate about the future use, purpose and value of urban public space given the current social, economic and environmental challenges
- to generate new research questions and future research collaborations and possibly to propose new experiments in the form and uses of public space in the city of Leeds for possible implementation
- to bring together researchers across the social sciences, arts and humanities in Leeds working on aspects of urban public space and show-case existing and ongoing work and its impact
What we traditionally conceive of as ‘the public’ sphere is on the retreat: public services are at the mercy of austerity policies, public housing is being sold off or outsourced and the privatisation of public space is resulting in fears of exclusive urban developments and the ‘death of the public realm’. In a relentlessly neoliberal climate, the ‘urban commons’ offers an alternative to the 20th century battle between public and private. The idea of land or services that are commonly owned and managed speaks to a 21st-century sensibility of ‘participative citizenship’ and ‘peer-to-peer production’.