The Architecture Historian and director of the New Town International Institute believes public space is essential to recognize the diversity of society.
To the extent that the digital world is increasingly conditioning our lives, and social networks are infiltrating our relationships, public space, as a physical meeting place will be ever more important, says the historian Michelle Provoost. She believes that it is one of the few places for being in contact with people outside our social bubble, people who are different from us and whom we sometimes might not like. Nevertheless, although these experiences are not always easy or agreeable, they are important for knowing ourselves and for recognising the richness and diversity of the society we live in. Public spaces can have their own specific attractiveness, Provoost says.
Although the formal beauty of perfectly designed parks in the French tradition is unquestionable, special design is not essential for a public space and is sometimes overrated. She gives as an example her own neighbourhood in Rotterdam, with well-maintained streets and squares but without any particular appeal. Yet the diversity of activities and public they accommodate, from an ecological market, to festivities of the countries of origin of some residents, to a circus performance, turns them into a setting of vibrant urban life.