public spaces of
the future

Entering the Digital world

The world is changing rapidly, and digitally it really took off in the early 2000s. Then the cities experienced and increasing access to wireless network which became very important for how public urban spaces were used. Until then, much of the digital development in urban spaces had centered around digital surfaces on walls, called “media architecture”. There were large screens showing commercials, sporting events or films associated with festivals. Now it began to deal more with the interaction between the city, the buildings, the people and the technology.

Public Spaces of The Future came about after an idea that arose in Sydney in 2003. At that time, the winning proposal for Federation Square was presented at the University of Sydney, as part of an Urban Design teaching seminar conducted by Prof. Barrie Shelton. LAB Architecture Studio , led by founding partner Peter Davidson, had innovated the entire concept of a new cultural center in Melbourne, and divided the building into several contiguous buildings around a constructed square on several levels.

The architectural method was based on fractal geometry, inspired by the book “Fractal Cities” from 1994. Federation Square is today the most successful public urban space in Melbourne, and among the city’s largest destinations.

Public urban spaces have historically always played a central role in cities. It was a gathering place in the center and a place often defined as the heart of the city. The traditional square as seen in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese countries is no longer created. During the last century after the industrial revolution, the city’s growth and fragmentation have created many urban spaces for varied experiences and needs. Not all are planned as one whole context, which breaks with cities’ intention of a perceived whole.

After the third industrialization where the world entered a digital age, has greatly influenced how we use urban spaces. Where design and urban space’s form and function, connection with surrounding architecture had a great impact on the city’s reputation, we are today less concerned with this. Sustainability now trumps most urban development processes.

Today’s urban space is facilitated for mobility, movement and accessibility.

We reduce the city’s accessibility by deliberately reducing car use. With this, the need increases even more for a strengthened connection and connection between the buildings, something Jan Gehl fronted in his work as an architect and urban designer. Fred Kent, founder of Project for Public Spaces, established Placemaking as a separate subject area more than forty years ago. People in focus, and urban spaces designed through activity-based experiences could bring back the same feeling of the squares of the past. The city around people, not people alone in the city, was the principle.

It is being built differently now.

The public spaces of the future will be subject to more green and blue, smaller areas for various activities, tools for climate management and places for experiences more than trade and industry.

We are in a digital transformation now, where access to the internet is more important than access to anything else. We interact in SoMe, even though we sit and walk next to each other. We no longer arrange meetings in a place in the city center, we take this directly through the mobile phone.

The conditions for creating good public spaces are different than in 2008, but the conference looked into the glass sphere, and Dr. Scott McQuire already pointed out what we are experiencing in 2022. Peter Davidson designed Federation Square as a future-oriented and flexible complex, which still attracts to use, activates content and gathers people. It was completed in 2007.

Public Spaces of the Future was an initiative from NUDA in collaboration with Bergen Municipality, Project For Public Spaces, Bergen Næringsråd and Arkitektforeningen i Bergen.

Fred Kent, Founder of Project For Public Spaces, US
From left: Rob Cowan, Peter Butenschøn, Lars Gemzøe, Will Cousins, Fred Kent and Brian Evans. All leading majorities within city planning.
Dr. Scott McQuire forsighted many of the trends experienced in 2022
Peter Butenschøn, Norway - talking about the Democratic City