The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of public space is: what defines it? Immediately followed by another question: does it need to be defined?. And my response to that is:
The most beautiful thing about public space is that it cannot be defined, nor content, nor limited. It is like water in our hands, it flows freely slipping through the fingers and escaping in search of new places to make them brighter.
It is free and independent, unlike their peers the buildings who are contained within a lot or parcel, defined by their neighbors and limited to exist forever wearing the same suit.
Public space can change, mutate, adapt to new realities that surround it. It can adopt new personalities over time, always thinking of how to exist forever.
I once heard in one of those movies that, for some reason, we never forget, that one of the characters who, casually, was an architect and, causally, made me want to be an architect, said a phrase I never forgot: He was dictating a class to a group of architecture students and showed them a brick and asked: “what is this?”. After hearing several responses, some very basic and some others a little more creative, he answered, “it is a brick that wants to be something…” Phrase followed by a group of images of architectural landmarks.
“It is a brick that wants to be something…” That phrase has been my companion ever since to remind me that there is something special, some kind of energy that forms when we are about to create, to make a design proposal, a je ne sais quoi that accompanies us step by step through the creative process… and no, I am not talking about some mystical or supernatural idea… it is simply a part of the architects craft that, at least in my case, is always present, and helps me believe that what I am doing is really special, even regardless of the outcome.
It is in this phrase that I think about when I refer to public space. I think of it as that brick wanting to be something. I see it as a character within the city, a sympathetic one, always cheerful, some kind of superhero able to stretch their limbs in search of his peers with the intention of taking them by the hand and forming a large network of happy characters.
I dream of a city full of elastic superheroes breathing life and keeping our streets and squares full of energy of which we all extract a tiny part to continue our path.
I think that if architects and urban planners have that in mind when making city and, when designing a public space we think, not only in the empty space contained between filled spaces, but in each and every one of the ramifications of that empty space, all the sighs that escape from it, the network would begin to be woven in harmony, and not in a casual way as it happens in most cases.
Let us become weavers of the city, let us create harmony in the gaps so the rest of the urbe can benefit from their energy…