Support public space for WUF10!

August 15, 2019
By City Space Architecture


On 8-13 February 2020 the 10th World Urban Forum (WUF10) will take place in Abu Dhabi. WUF10 will be convened by UN-Habitat and jointly organized with the Abu Dhabi Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities.

Abu Dhabi will be the first Arab city to host the WUF, and the forum's theme will be "Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation".

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said the WUF10 will take the sustainable urbanization debate to a new level in what promises to be an event that will have an impact for years to come.
Mohamed Al Khadar, Executive Director of strategic affairs at Abu Dhabi Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities, said the UAE is aligning the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the development strategy to support WUF10.

UN-Habitat is currently revising the Concept Note of WUF10, a draft is available here.

Since City Space Architecture is a partner of UN-Habitat, we received a request for a feedback. While reviewing the Concept Note and other documents, we realized that public space is poorly mentioned, and not clearly addressed, as it was in WUF9 in Kuala Lumpur.

We think that the Concept Note should clearly include public space as one of the topics of WUF10.

Our President Luisa Bravo submitted a feedback to UN-Habitat last week, explaining the reasons why public space should be included in the Forum. Here is what she wrote:


"From the WUF's theme - Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation - it is somehow evident that public space will be part of the discussion, for example in Dialogue 1, 2, 3 or 5. However we think that the words ‘public space’ should be included in the Concept Note, for example in the thematic objectives, and should be clearly addressed in at least one of the scheduled activities, for example in the WUF10 Special Sessions.

We suggest to include public space also in one of the Dialogues, for example reframing Dialogue 1 with 'Public space, culture and innovation’, since Dialogue 1 and 2 look very similar. Or as an alternative we suggest to merge Dialogue 1 and 2 and create a new Dialogue entirely dedicated to public space, for example ‘Public space culture as a driving force for innovation’ or ‘Public space as a driver of urban prosperity’.

City Space Architecture is at the forefront in promoting public space culture: we participated to the Habitat III conference (with a networking event and a side event) and WUF9 (as exhibitor and with a networking event), I was also selected/invited to attend the 26th Governing Council in Nairobi, the High Level Meeting on the New Urban Agenda in New York and the 1st UN-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi. My lecture ‘Stand up for Public Space’ was included in the UN-Habitat Global Urban Lectures Series (2017). With The Journal of Public Space, City Space Architecture is actively working in order to implement the New Urban Agenda and promote the SDGs, both at the local and global level. We are willing to launch at WUF10 our new educational programme, the Public Space Academy, and we are currently discussing with several stakeholders who are interested to support our work.

After major global efforts from many organizations to include public space in the New Urban Agenda back in 2016, it is extremely important to continue the discussion on well designed and well maintained public spaces to promote urban prosperity and social inclusion, with particular attention to youth, women, older persons and persons with disabilities. Public space is the expression of different cultures and is generator of social and economic innovation, especially in developing countries. So, quoting WUF's theme - Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation, I believe public space is a real opportunity for cities and communities, for a good quality of urban life, enhancing community cohesion and civic identity."


We need your support!

This is the list of our affiliated members and partners, who already confirmed their interest to cooperate with us in order to develop activities on public space at WUF10:


Luisa Bravo, President, City Space Architecture / Editor in Chief, The Journal of Public Space, Italy

Simone Garagnani, Adjunct Professor, University of Bologna / Vice President, City Space Architecture, Italy

Hendrik Tieben, Associate Professor and Director of the Master in Urban Design, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Manfredo Manfredini, Senior Lecturer, Future Cities Research Hub, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Gregor Mews, Director, Urban Synergies Group, Australia

Setha Low, Chair, Public Space Research Group, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA

Katherine Kline, Co-Chair, GAP Older Persons, USA

Darko Radovic, Director, co+labo, Keio University, Japan

Mingxing Song, Hunan University, China

Haison Wang, Shanghai University, China

Ethan Kent, PlacemakingX, USA

Roni El Jalkh and Amir Gohar, Placemaking MENA

Laura Sobral, Urbanist and Co-founder, A Cidade Precisa de Você, Brazil 

Lance Jay Brown, President, Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU), USA

Charles Mbugua, International Federation of Social Workers  (IFSW), Kenya

Michael Kanyingi Kimuhu, Founder, MICOP CBO, Kenya

Michael Mehaffy, Senior Researcher, Ax:son Johnson Foundation, Sweden

Jean Quinn, Executive Director, UNANIMA International, USA

Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius, Programme officer, Accessibility in Smart Cities Initiative / Bilateral Associate Expert, World Blind Union

Victor Pineda, President, World Enabled, USA

Tigran Haas, Associate Professor, Director of the Center for the Future of Places, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Husam AlWaerSenior Lecturer, Associate Director for the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR), University of Dundee, UK

Rasmus Bering, CEO and Co-founder, DREAMTOWN, Denmark

Ziaur Rahman, Senior Project Officer, Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust, Blangladesh

Lorenzo Petrillo, Founder, LOPELAB, Singapore

Thomas Melin, Director, Block by Block Foundation, USA

Eliza Hoxha, University of Prishtina, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Republic of Kosovo

Celine D’Cruz, Block by Block Foundation and Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, Thailand

Massimiliano Scuderi, Art Director, Fondazione Zimei / Adjunct Professor of Contemporary Art History, Faculty of Architecture and Design, University of Camerino UNICAM, Italy

Estanislau Roca Blanch, Full Professor, Vice Rector for Infrastructure and Architecture, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain

Kristie DanielProgram Director, Livable Cities, HealthBridge, Canada

Alessandro MelisProfessor of Architecture Innovation, University of Portsmouth, UK / Curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale 

Dario Canciani, President of Comitato Capannoni del Sale, Tortona, Italy


If you want to add your name to support the discussion on public space at WUF10 please send us an email to: with your name and the name of your organization.

You can also add a short statement (one sentence or one paragraph) to explain why public space matters.


Thank you!


Statements from global stakeholders on why public space matters:



"Creating public spaces accessible to persons with disabilities is key to break attitudinal barriers and increase citizen participation in the transformation processes of cities wherein we lead our lives on equal basis as others."

Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius, Programme officer, Accessibility in Smart Cities Initiative / Bilateral Associate Expert, World Blind Union 



Whether it seems impossible to reach optimal conditions for all people in cities- public spaces are the necessary and essential precondition, which reminds each and everyone of us in our daily lives, that what we experience is and always should be a shared human condition. It is now in your hands to create and impact this space as part of your story.”

Gregor Mews, Director, Urban Synergies Group, Australia 



“Public Space sits at the intersection of an imbalance of power and the inequitable access to the provision of public goods. Designers often exclude by their designs people outside ‘normal’ ranges of ability (or participation), and likewise sustainability ‘thinking’ can result in environmental ‘solutions’ benefiting a dominant, already privileged sub-set within society at the expense of others. It does not nor should it always be this way.”

Nicholas LoderChair of the New South Wales Branch of the Australasian Housing Institute, Australia



"Public spaces are not just vital for people to socialize, learn and play but also form part of the physical fabric of a city, town or suburb.  The network of streets and sidewalks, punctuated by open areas with parks, plazas and public institutions structure the circulation of people and vehicles, as well as commercial goods, personal services and natural resources. Public spaces, especially those that enable a smoothly running transportation system, provide the network for city wide mobility and circulation of people, animals and vehicles, but also for the flow of natural resources.  Water ways, run-off and retention basins and drainage ditches, also part of the public space system, contribute to the environmental sustainability of the region, even beyond the city and built environment."

Setha Low, Chair, Public Space Research Group, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA



"Cities that create and nurture public space will ensure social inclusiveness, and liveable and sustainable neighbourhoods. Place based participatory decision making will provide for public space that is integrated into planning processes."

Martin BrennanSenior Research Fellow, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, Australia 



“The most vital aspect of a city is its publicness. Publicness is about coming together in the commons, about learning to embrace our differences, about deciding how we govern ourselves, and ultimately, how our futures are not only intertwined but how it is only through exchange and collaboration that we can ensure a brighter future for our cities. Public space is the spatial expression of this publicness. Moreover, publicness is a political process in the best sense of the term, because the political embodies the public conversations and debates we must have as constantly question, reflect, and re-shape our futures. Some of the best political conversations occur in public spaces.”

Aseem Inam, Professor and Chair in Urban Design, Cardiff University, UK



"Public Spaces Fulfill a Basic Universal Need. Despite changes in technology that allow us to receive information and entertainment via the internet, satellite, and other means, we as humans have a need to interact with other humans in close physical proximity. Generally, humans are gregarious, sociable, and curious. Public spaces allow us to watch others, talk with others, learn life lessons, and be exposed to different people and cultures. Essentially, human beings are drawn to other human beings; our collectively shared experience perhaps ensures a sense of safety, sense of self, and belonging to a larger community."

Mark Hinshaw, Architect and Urban Designer (retired), Author and Journalist (still active), Italy



"Public spaces are essential because they are where our shared humanity is expressed and sustained." 

Nabila Alibhai, Founder, InCommons, Kenya



"If the intellectual community is serious about ensuring Sustainable Development Goals transpire from concept to reality by 2030, then it is hard to imagine rigorous discourse without attention to the role and value of urban space."

Ian Morley, Associate Professor, Department of History, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong



"Shared public spaces are the fundamental essence of cities - the places where urban lives and culture are shaped and re-shaped, configured and re-configured on a daily basis.  They serve as the connective tissue between otherwise disparate components of urban life and landscape."

Piper Gaubatz, Professor of Geography & Geography Program HeadDepartment of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, USA



"Public space is a vital platform for engagement and dialogues that reveal the rhythms and arrhythms of a city and shape our understanding of the emerging urban culture. The public domain reminds us of our collective responsibility and the creative action within that space is the catalyst for understanding how we can navigate and shape our urban future. Without public space a city has no ‘soul’."

Maggie McCormick, Adjunct Professor, RMIT University, Australia



"Public Space is an important part of a city. It gives opportunity for socialization, entertainment and physical activity and provides environmental facilities, social and personal impact and opportunities of active recreations. Senior citizens choose these places to spend their free time. But due to lack of accessibility persons with disabilities cannot enjoy the public space. Lack of safety and playing equipment discourages women and children to go to public space. We need to ensure public space in our every community."

Ziaur Rahman, Senior Project Officer, Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust, Bangladesh



"Public space matters because this is the space where people can be heard and listened at; this is the place for lovers to meet, for the youth to dream and for the elder to contemplate each minute of the on-going life. Public space matters because it is fundamentally the place where the unexpected can happen: genuine social interactions."

Karine Dupre, Associate Professor, Griffith Architecture and Design, Australia



"In a world full of exclusiveness, privatization, and all sorts of inequalities. Public spaces are the only path to bringing back humanity and livelihood to cities. Public spaces are where people learn about each other, embrace differences, and get together; it is simply where life takes place. And when these meeting experiences fade away and disappear, it is when cities suffer the most from all social, cultural, political...etc. in tolerances and in-acceptances, widening the gap towards a more peaceful and loving accepting world. And in my point of view, that's the epidemic of this century, which all of us should work to eradicate it rather than reinforcing it. It all begins with a lovely friendly chat in a public space."

Merham Mohamed Keleg, Lecturer Assistant, Urban Planning and Design, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt



"El espacio público nos pertenece a tod@s, acoge el encuentro, promueve el dialogo y es una plataforma que da vida a múltiples y diversas expresiones y derechos de la sociedad. Por esencia el espacio público, es y debe ser, la expresión en si misma de la democracia de la ciudadanía en su macro bien público, Ciudad y Hogar."

Edmundo Hernández Rojas, Founder and CEO, CIUDADES 2030 ciudades en movimiento, Chile



"Talking about a fairer world is inseparable from talking about public spaces, which have the vocation of meeting people, of dialogue, of building the common, of democratic debates." 

Laura Sobral, Urbanist and Co-founder, Instituto A Cidade Precisa de Você, São Paulo, Brazil



“In my view public space by providing the conditions for children, youth and adults to share their common norms and values, to feel safe, and to have a sense of belonging to the place and its people, can promote people’s quality of life and well-being. In public space people know each other, make the closed relationship among their friends and family, and have a sense of community. These kinds of relationships also shape strong social networks among individuals. So, we need public space to have sustainable communities.”   

Parisa Ziaesaeidi, former Lecturer in Architecture, Iran / PhD candidate, Queensland University of Technology, Australia



"The public space has long been the subject of a privatization culture that led to the loss of the collective sense. In recent decades a new sensibility, also through the contribution of innovative protocols based on sharing responsibilities in public art or the referring to cultural identity as a catalyst in the urban regeneration process, has been responsible for rewriting the history of these areas and contributing to the regeneration of the contemporary urban territories. Culture, as well as being represented by the European program objectives, is certainly an important asset in the construction of identity of individuals and social groups, and the workplaces not only are prerequisites for intercultural communication, but also a strategic approach to the issues of local development and governance."

Massimiliano Scuderi, Art Director, Fondazione Zimei / Adjunct Professor of Contemporary Art History, Faculty of Architecture and Design, University of Camerino UNICAM, Italy



"The increasing concern for sustainable mobility should define new policies to aim for a friendly city for everybody (for example, a city for walking and cycling), and one that has to take into account is the different kind of public sharing of the urban space. In my opinion the future transformation of large metropolitan open spaces into new potential public spaces of the regional city has to incorporate spaces that can play a new role as structural elements of the metropolis; spaces that generate new composite landscapes in wich natural features, infrastructures or cultural heritage elements are combined; and spaces that seek to enhance and balance new uses, mainly an ecological function, leisure activities, and agricultural uses. It is also important the configuration of metropolitan nodes as collectives spaces, while the governance of regional networks and their integrated conception is key to producing places with intense and mixed uses. The urban design project is crucial to enable the architectural and social relationships that produce collective space".

Estanislau Roca Blanch, Full Professor, Vice Rector for Infrastructure and Architecture, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain



“Public spaces are democratic spaces of interaction of a city, in which a diversity of people with different cultural, religious and social backgrounds can celebrate these differences. This inclusivity of public spaces enhances social interaction, which allows society to share and negotiate values and ideologies. By that, a public space becomes the space where the identity of the city is created and displayed.”

Tarek Fouani, Architect and Urban Designer, Lebanon