A welcome message from LI President and competition judge Jane Findlay CMLI

In recent years providing green and public spaces in the city has gained more importance and continued to be a significant indicator of the quality of urban life.

However, these dynamics also went hand in hand with treating public spaces as a mere commodity– today, it is quite difficult to find open public spaces in cities where people can simply sit, interact with each other, or circulate without having to consume something.

The growth of city living and densification to provide affordable homes has added yet more limitations to providing quality open public space in our towns and cities.

Against this backdrop, in March the world entered the Covid-19 pandemic era, where we have learned to apply a new concept to the use of public spaces: social distancing, a term which actually means ‘physical distance’ between people. With people isolated or quarantined in their own homes for months, and even asked to keep this distance in open spaces, one issue became very clear to urban residents: there is not enough ‘open public spaces’ in cities to provide a place where people can simply walk, stretch, meet each other, and move around without taking risks.

As soon as the lock-down measures were relaxed, outdoor café areas and restaurants, beaches, and parks were completely packed again. New forms of competition have emerged to make more use of public streets, pedestrian paths, or other public spaces. Urban residents are hungry for open public spaces, and the urgency to rethink existing norms, rules, and principles is obvious.

This is a wake-up call, requiring us to re-think the meaning of public space in our towns and cities. We need new public space norms, principles, and rules to ensure that cities can provide breathing spaces for their residents as a top priority.

This competition is an exciting opportunity for designers to brainstorm, reimagine and inspire a new world of public space.