Public spaces and public

Zora Pauliniová


Many cities in Slovakia use instead of strategic planning the tactics of everyday struggle with problems. They create thus a space for civic initiatives and associations and with their ideas of how to solve the problems. Although an appropriate usage of the potential of civic initiatives and associations would bring benefits for all concerned parties, the local government is not able yet to respond to the changing roles of the actors present in the process of urban development. A useful instrument for involving people and organizations in the process of decision-making is the participatory planning.

Evolving of civil society and empowerment of communities can be seen in various areas. This visible input of citizens and professionals in the sphere of development and urban planning has several common features. Citizens (represented by civil initiatives, as well as professional associations) engage in favour of rescuing and revitalizing public spaces, they start and participate in discourse about public spaces and the development of the city as such, and bring new concepts, analyses, policies and solutions. Among other reasons, as they are personally affected by the local government decisions, it is the above mentioned commitment and professionalism which qualify them as important actors in urban planning. A great tool for this purpose is participatory planning. Planning that involves the public is gradually changing, becoming more complex, expanding its range of tools, addressing a wider range of stakeholders and striking diverse goals.

Experience from Bratislava show that it is not sufficient to claim public space and promote changes in it, but the very nature of these changes should be negotiated downwards and upwards. Steps for public involvement in decision-making are not difficult – we need to identify stakeholders and communicate with the interested public, to map sensitive and important topic, and then begin to discuss and negotiate. Such processes are not the shortest ones, but everybody involved can be the winner.

Keywords: town, public, participatory planning, urban design, public space