Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Public art, public space, urban design - Case studies creating significance through public places art an inclusive + interdisciplinary practice

Margaret Worth


A diverse range of professions and practices go into creating public places that bring health and wealth to cities and communities. The art of planning and design for quality and vitality in public spaces rests in the balance of people, place, spirit and custom. Public places need to be more than safe and accessible, they also need to have meaning and significance for people, to be used more fully and with greater appreciation. Through selected public projects, the paper explores how this can be achieved and what is the vital role of the artist / designers in collaboration with scientists and other professional designers of urban spaces. The artist / designers are needed to ‘tell the story’, enhance the significance and provide the framework / amenity for its celebration. They provide for / create the spirit and identity of public places out of their function. In the examples issues of cultural contradictions, social awareness, political, emotional and economic values are addressed. Their effect on the sustenance and maintenance of community, economy and environment is demonstrated. Working with the range of expertise that is called for in public places planning and design requires thinking inclusively across different disciplines and different interest groups. Examples are given of team collaboration across diverse areas including archaeology and ecology, social planning, architecture and landscape planning, traffic and services management, visual art and design. The real art is in bringing all together in balance such that the public places ARE the artwork. The examples demonstrate that an interdisciplinary approach is the key to socially valued, long-lived projects. The projects in this paper describe the increased value of public places that include designing for the cultural environment and working collaboratively in the early planning process. The benefits come from the celebration of diversity, the building of community custodianship, the reduction of crime and the increase in social capital and property values. The paper proposes that in order to build better places, urban design policies, geographical and ecological principles, and social and cultural environment planning must be included in the scope of public places art and design practice.

Text complet: PDF