Community spaces enhance our surroundings. They try to bring people together in a cohesive environment, which is open to the public. This can be seen in many squares, streets, markets and parks worldwide where people from different backgrounds come together in groups.
Many urbanists such as Lefebvre, Doreen Massey, Ash Amin and others have written on this issue of public space and community. Lefebvre thinks that people have an innate desire to communicate and play with their surroundings through the ‘oeuvre’ where they come together in different ways to experience their environment. According to him, everything humans experience in the outer world is planned as the human has the “need to see, to hear, to touch, to taste and the need to gather these perceptions in a world.” Community spaces highly inspire such “anthropological needs” of human beings making everything in the public space an urban experience.
Public space serves as a very important entity in our urban lives. It helps us relax, motivates us to see things we might otherwise overlook, and also helps us to be part of a community. As Stephen Carr states in his book Public Space:
“When public spaces are successful they will increase opportunities to participate in communal activity. In the parks, plazas, markets, waterfronts, and natural areas of our cities, people from different cultural groups can come together in a supportive context of mutual enjoyment. As these experiences are repeated, public spaces become vessels to carry positive communal meanings.”
This means people draw from their public spaces is an important concept towards the study of urbanism. Public art in public spaces for instance can make people interact with each other and the object as they experience joy from the communal space.
Ash Amin, a geographer from the University of Cambridge who has researched into this area, notes that the public space gives a sense of freedom and safety for people to be open so as to not perceive the space as a threat. This is because it’s common behavior to feel threatened in our streets and outdoor spaces. We don’t always feel like we can be ourselves outside of our homes when we are left alone in a big city. There are certain behavioral practices and rules to be followed. But in some public spaces, there is an element of play and interaction which makes us forget those community rules we follow while walking alone on the street. Many spaces also gives us the opportunity to get together with our friends and relatives and act nonchalantly. Urbanists think that such places are planned to be perceived in a freer manner for community gathering.
What makes our community spaces interactive? Why do we behave in a different manner when we interact with our community in comparison to when we don’t? Why do we feel less threatened? These are questions many urbanists ponder over our cities and how to make successful public spaces.
I feel that as humans we all have an innate desire to communicate with each other and when we interact we feel safer and less threatened than when we are left alone. Public spaces which enhance interaction not only with humans but also with objects are successful because of this innate desire. We get a sense of fulfilment and joy in immersing ourselves with objects or other people. Our public spaces show that we all long to interact with our spaces and the ones which help us do so, are successful.
Therefore, public spaces should create more interactive environments so that people can participate in them. There are many ways to do this, through landscaping, design and amenities provided in the public space. More research into this topic will provide a better understanding of ways to make public spaces more interactive.