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Local Matters

We the Public Space

Friday, March 6, 2020
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

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"Parks are not a ‘nice-to-have;' parks are a necessity." – Shanelle L. Smith Whigham

A city is comprised of both people and places. In Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, author Eric Klinenberg shares how the resilience of communities can be found not just in shared values but in such shared spaces as libraries, child-care centers, playgrounds, and gardens that enable life-transforming human connections.

But while Klinenberg's book extols the virtues of free, shared community spaces, it begs the question: who are these spaces designed for? By definition, public spaces are meant to be open, inclusive, and democratic, but today we see physical, social, and economic barriers that challenge the true nature of public space: economic issues, social and cultural segregation, huge real estate investments, privatization trends, and gentrification processes. As these inequalities persist — and, in some cases, widen — how can we ensure public spaces are designed for and by the people who will use them?

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