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Conference paper - Peer-reviewed, 2005

Public space: a 'tragedy of the common' or a hidden potential

Lindholm, Gunilla


The aim with this study is to clarify the role of physical planning in relation to other actors in a process of urban renewal. Theoretically the study makes use of several sources, among which are Sojas geographical and Latours sociological trials to tie the human thought/language/expression and the landscape/space/artifact, as well as the communicative genre of planning theory. Physical planning activities, not always noticed in public, plays a key role “backstage” in a process of change, thereby taking a paradoxical ambiguous position, using brakes while accelerating. The key role is established within the practice of physical planning, partly due to the commission to arrange the physical structures, limiting as well as ameliorating urban life. Partly it is due to the specific competence available, to manage complex situations with holistic tools, to manage the physical resources and to coordinate the works of urban planning, design and maintenance. Within the regenerating efforts of the Swedish city Landskrona, a former industrial city seeking new identity, a considerate number of projects cooperate to achieve better everyday conditions for the citizens, as well as new visionary images of the city. These projects are initiated on different levels within the municipal administration as well as by free-standing organizations, such as sport teams or immigrant societies. The efforts have impact on the urban structures, both in a social and in a physical sense. The physical planning activities are taking part in the implementation of strategic decisions and realization of development programs. It is investigated in what ways these programs catches up thoughts and ideas of change (partly through direct commission, partly as consequence of own routines and continuous work) and accomplish changes in public space and infrastructure. By zooming in the relationships between projects initiated within the renewal process and the physical planning activities, in connection to the continuous work with plans on comprehensive and detailed level, it is possible to detect interactions between the perfunctory and the occasionally driven actions, in this case delimited to what is relevant for urban public space. These interactions could be characterized as conflicts or co-operations and will possibly show the difference between two ontologies, the historic-politic reality and the formal-holistic reality. It is concluded, that there are certain possibilities to act, within a period of high intensity and within a “social climate” positive to change and renewal. To focus these possibilities can reveal new demands on urban public space, as well as public space as an area for new expressions of urban life. It may be the physical planning activities put “on stage”, through intensified relations to social urban activities, could achieve a better ability to adjust to on-going city life and actual visions. Terms describing the planning process, such as alertness, flexibility, openness, inclusive routines, etc. will be concretized in relation to the significance of urban open space

Published in


Life in the Urban Landscape - international conference for integrating urban knowledge & practice

    SLU Authors

    • Lindholm, Gunilla

      • Department of Landscape Planning Alnarp, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Landscape Architecture
    Economics and Business
    Social Sciences

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