Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Stadt- und Regionalsoziologie


The strength of beautiful public spaces: the use and meaning of squares and shopping streets in advantaged and disadvantaged neighbourhoods
(De kracht van prachtige openbare ruimten: gebruik en beleving van pleinen in voor- en achterstandswijken )

Project duration: 2008-2012
Funded by: NICIS Institute, Delft University of Technology/OTB, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Humboldt University Berlin, University of Amsterdam/IMES, Municipality of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht
Project leader: Prof. dr. Jack Burgers (Erasmus University Rotterdam )
Project fellows: Dr. Reinout Kleinhans (Delft University of Technology, OTB), Saskia Binken, MSc (Delft University of Technology, OTB), Linda Zuijderwijk , MSc (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Prof. dr. Talja Blokland (Humboldt University Berlin), Döske van der Wilk, MSc (University of Amsterdam, IMES) and Prof. dr. Jan Rath (University of Amsterdam, IMES)

The quality of public space plays an important role in preserving and enhancing the quality of life within neighbourhoods. Moreover, the quality of public space can be decisive in determining whether or not to move to another neighbourhood. Quality of public space should be considered broadly: not only do people view the physical aspects of public space, they also interpret people’s  usages of public spaces (i.e. the social aspects). It is often argued that use of public space has changed tremendously over the last century due to globalization and modernization. Inevitably, this has consequences for how people attach meanings to public space and the social interactions and human behaviour that take place there. The main question under examination in this project, then, is: How do different groups of people use, claim and attach meanings to public space? Within this broad topic, three PhD-candidates have formulated their own more specific research questions. Based on multiple methods and intensive fieldwork in various residential areas in the Netherlands, this project seeks to: a) investigate how existing scientific research from abroad can be translated meaningfully into the Dutch policy practice, b) examine which policy interventions are potential, inevitable or desirable for creating conditions for forms of use in public space that contribute to a sense of home in the streets of as many people as possible (residents, potential residents and visitors), and c) make theoretical contributions to the growing scientific literature on public space.