When people think of urban spaces, they think about plazas, community gathering spaces, parks, gardens, and pedestrian spaces. Urban spaces aren’t just about areas for the public, it is about the public. It is fundamentally based on the character of the people residing in a city. Where they go, where they gather, where they meet, and where they sit. It is what makes the worth of the urban space of its existence and makes it work smoothly. 

So, more than the buildings in the city, the spaces created between these masses are what is important. The city transforms and evolves itself through these urban spaces. 

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Samuli Lintulai (2006), Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

In bookish terms, urban spaces are those areas and municipalities forming a whole. Although it may have completely different yet beautiful meanings to it. It can mean the space where a family spends its weekend, or where a couple spends their time alone, or where a dog and his human spend quality time playing. 

It can do all sorts of things for all people but in the end, it means that it is a space where people spend time with others to find happiness or comfort in their mind and body from the fast pace of the city.

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Henderson, Jim (2008), Paley Park on a cloudy, chilly late winter afternoon

Now, the major setback in cities is their design and usage compared to their past fundamentals. In the previous decades, parks and gardens were deemed necessary for a neighborhood for the community residing in them.  These urban spaces looked like breathers from the changing times and often provided solace to the communities. It acted as platforms and stages for communal discussions, protests, and many more monumental acts. 

But now, urban spaces have become more dead and modernized according to the office buildings that are soaring in the city’s skyline. These spaces or the so-called plazas serve no purpose at all for the people. There is no way it caters to the needs of the people. It does not have any proportional amount of sitting spaces nor greenery for the public to experience. 

Greenery and resting areas make people take a breath in the hustle-bustle of the city. But now due to urbanization, greenery and landscapes have become extinct and being replaced with hardcore pavements and glass.

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Ghigo DiTomaso, A. (2015), A spring day in Piazza Maggiore, in Bologna, Italy
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Anna Kristiana Dave (2020) Black Lives Matter protest at Times Square, New York.

These spaces threaten the very meaning of the environment in architecture and prove a great deal of profit for developers and builders as there is not much to maintain. Hence, the opportunity for commercial investors and the opportunity for a common good don’t coincide and align for the betterment of the fabric and people. What these urban spaces need is a deeper connection with nature and the world while also maintaining all guidelines and regulations to be followed.

The cities which have their edges open to water have now upgraded these riverfronts with cutting lines of pavement and hardscape but have forgotten that these edges were once blooming with flora and fauna native to those regions. As the city expands, these edges become much harder and provide a very monotonous landscape for people. Every detail may have been thought through but in the end, it makes no sense to provide railings only to block views of the river for which high plinths were constructed. 

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Madhur Saini (2016), Sabarmati Riverfront, Ahmedabad

The scenario for urban spaces, although further worsened due to the pandemic as it took away those spaces and rendered them empty and without life. Without people using them, there was no life to it as it did not serve a purpose other than a green pocket. The pandemic has made people realize the need for such urban spaces that will allow them to be relaxed and have a moment to themselves.

Guerra, Fernando (2020), Fonte Nova Square, Lisbon, Portugal

People now crave open public spaces which will remind them of anything other than their home or their apartment building. People now realize the meaning and importance urban spaces have over our life. Architects will become more aware of the nature that surrounds us, common folks will see sense in those gardens which just seemed a waste of space. 

Urban spaces might become a vital entity for a neighborhood’s survival and also again become the fundamental units of a city. One can only hope that these situations will urge people to rewrite the meaning of urban space and make it what it once was: a way to spend time with people and nature together.  

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Iwan Baan (2009), The New York High Line

Ashwini is an architecture student who is trying to pursue her love for writing. She is an avid reader and also has an interest in graphic designing. She believes that the power of the pen can bring out the soul of a building to the mortal world.