Historic garden as public space (?)

Ivan Stankoci, Miriam Heinrichová, Tamara Reháčková


The status of public spaces in a city, their importance, function and facilities they provide, belong to the today’s most discussed themes by professionals and non-professionals. Public spaces can be defined as open free spaces which are available to the public regardless of gender, race, religion etc. Especially in urban areas, the public green spaces like parks, public gardens and other green areas play an important role in the city. The problem is that this group of public areas doesn’t grow proportionately with urban development. Buildings have become more concentrated in any city structure, often at the expense of green areas. The result is that the existing green areas are too small to cope with the increasing volume and demand of citizens in the case of recreation, resulting in degradation of green areas. Green areas suffer because of urban development and as they are adapted to suit new functions, such as children playgrounds and cafés. Especially the application of this trend in historic gardens is particularly questionable.

Our paper is addressed to this specific type of greenery – historic gardens. These areas, protected as historical monuments, are usually owned by the state or municipalities and also used as public spaces for different kinds of activities. In theory there is nothing wrong with this way of use but historic garden should not substitute the role of urban parks and it is only a logical consequence of the lack of new public and recreational areas in cities. In the case of historic gardens, this trend may cause their degradation by introduction of unsuitable elements and inappropriate activities. It implies the conflict between public interest, heritage protection and municipal policy. Public prefer to have adequate and quality recreation spaces in the city and for them it doesn’t matter where. Municipalities want to be open to public needs; the problem is that there are not enough open spaces for activities that would cover the public demand.

Municipalities then sacrifice historically protected areas for almost all public activities. Case studies show that many activities in today’s historic gardens are contrary to the Charter of Florence and the Act no. 49/2002 as regards the protection of monuments, which are binding for the Slovak Republic.

Keywords: park, urban design, town, historical garden, public space, greenery