Award Editions Frontend Portlet

Edition 2002



After the Second World War, open public spaces in European cities were abandoned to their fate for decades. Predominant factors included the need to house large-scale influxes of immigrants in cities, scant control of urban speculation phenomena, the basic and excessive application of ideas which separated urban functions in spaces and the prominence given to private transport. The result was unchecked growth in urban development, overspecialisation in uses and the devastating effects of private motorised transport.

During this process, public space was considered unprofitable and was consequently treated as a residual space, a space "in negative" which was gradually losing its urban potential.

Nevertheless, following a long period of neglect and destruction, the early eighties marked the beginning, in Europe, of the slow but decided task of recovering public space, understood as a meeting place for inhabitants, replete with functional and symbolic values. We can therefore recognise in many cities on the Continent today, the same efforts geared to improving and creating public space, based on halting the invasion of the car, recovering disused industrial, harbour and railway sites, creating new metropolitan parks, improving open public spaces in large-scale housing developments in peripheral areas, etc.

The best of the recent interventions in European public space have made a firm commitment to alleviating social inequality and to public investment as a means of creating an engine for social and economic regeneration; they seek to foster development which is compatible with the idea of sustainability.

In all the above senses, this new appraisal of public space seeks to achieve much more than to design the physical components of common spaces in cities according to high quality levels. The primary aim is to regain the capacity of these public spaces to house activity, diversity, relationship, exchange, sociability, creation, culture...the characteristic values of public spaces in European cities and, at the same time, to tailor urban public space and the city itself to the criteria of local, regional and governmental sustainability.By re-endowing public spaces with their multiplicity of uses as places for meeting and socialisation, and improving the urban environment in terms of sustainability, we can recognise the fundamental role which public space has always played in defining European cities.


This powerful spate of projects geared to recovering and creating public spaces in Europe has not yet been analysed in enough depth. If it is quite clear that there is no shortage of specialised magazines and prizes related to the field of architecture, it is also true that urban public space has not attracted much interest and that the major efforts made by municipal councils and European professionals over the past twenty years have not been appreciated or recognised.

This is why, bearing in mind that the movement to recover and create European public space has attained maturity, and the positive effect which the recognition of the quality of these interventions will have, in the year 2000 the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona and the Institut Français d'Architecture created the EUROPEAN PRIZE FOR URBAN PUBLIC SPACE, a biennial award. The success of the first call for entries, which attracted over 80 projects from 13 European countries, confirmed our expectations and led us to consider increasing the number of institutions involved in awarding and disseminating information about the Prize. For this reason, the 2002 call for entries will have the support of five institutions, and other organisations will be able to participate in future prizes.