Public space is a space which is accessible to peopleand it helps to promotes social interaction, social activities and a sense ofcommunity.
It can be a marketplace, parks, footpaths, sites within publicbuildings etc. Public spaces can accommodate various uses like cycling, walking,common interaction point. Every public space have aunique characteristics about it , like whether it’s an urban public space ,suburban public space or rural public space because the activities happenedthere totally depends on the social characteristics of the area .
Other thanthe social characteristics of that area geographic, demographic, connectivity, economic,functionality and ethnic diversity of that area is also important. Example- Neighborhoodpark is approachable to every class of the society and used for large number ofactivities ranging from jogging , cycling to small get together whereas apublic space in a public library will not be approachable to every class of thesociety and a limited amount of activities will happen there. And its workinghours is totally depends on the library working hours.Public spacereflectsthe community’s local character and personality. It Foster social interactionand create a sense of community and neighborliness and provides a sense ofcomfort or safety to people gathering and using the space. It encourages useand interaction among a diverse cross section of the public and reflects thelocal culture and the history of that area. The economic value of public space is as it offers veryclear benefits to the local economy in terms of stimulating increased houseprices which are near to the public space which gives relaxing landscape andfeeling of openness to the people living nearby, since house buyers are willingto pay more prices to those houses.
More public spaces attract the visitors andincreases the tourism results in more revenue generation. The impact on physical and mental health of the citypeople as obesity and stress is a major public health problem and a growingconcern particularly in children and young generation i.e future of our nation.
37.9% of adults aged 20, 20.6% of adolescents aged 12 -19 years and 17.4% ofchildren aged 6-11 years and 9.
4% of children aged 2-5 years are suffering withobesity (NationalCentre for Health Statistics 2013-2014). Public space is a great place forwalking, jogging, cycling and sports which eliminates obesity problem andimproves mental health also.Play is crucial for many aspects of children’sdevelopment, from the acquisition of social skills, experimentation and theconfrontation and resolution of emotional crises, to moral understanding,cognitive skills such as language and of physical skills. Play and public greenspaces has a greater value for the special children with autism and childrenwith attention deficit disorder.Public spaces have also known for reducing crime andfear of crime, to a much lesser extent.
Always occupied with the nearby peopleincreased the safety of the young children playing. The benefits of increasedlighting creates a safer environment for the girls and womens.In urban areas, significant increase in hardsurfaces like roads , pavements results in increased temperatures which is alsocalled as heat island effect and reduces the percolation of rain water in theground results in low water table. Public spaces or private gardens can help toredress this imbalance and improves the air quality.
Trees provides shade. Natureand wildlife helps to restore the urban fabric.Historically, public space is not always a gatheringplace. In the ancient Greek, agora was first a central market but also a placefor assembly for the town’s people and a setting in which ceremonies andspectacles were performed. In Athens it was first surrounded by private houses,but later temples and sanctuaries so it is impossible to characterize the agoraas either a religious, civic or political space, as it brought together allthose activities. Another yet important open public spaces were streets wherepeople interact , celebrate and congregate. In India, because of the hot andhumid climate houses were places closely which leaves streets were thecorridors of the infrastructure and also occupied as an essential space for thepeople interaction, celebration point1 .
Inthe words of Arjun Appadurai. “Streets , and their culture , lie at the heartof public life in contempory India. Especially in those many cities where urbanhousing is crowded and uncomfortable, where the weather is never too cold,streets are where much of life is lived”.2Now, India has the second largest population in theworld. With increase in the urbanization and population densities, comes amajor demand for land.
In this context, the first set of spaces is to developis open spaces which results in a change in the urban form and physicalconfigurations of space within the city. Due to this, the amount of open spacesaccessible to the general public reduces.3Streets in India have a tradition that women wouldspend the day gossiping, cutting vegetables and washing the clothes on the verandahsand also conversing with the neighbors and buying vegetables from the streetsvendors. India’s streets have a history of being shared spaces by the pedestrians,thela walas , bicycles, bullock carts etc. Streets are ‘cohabited spaces’.
‘Lifeworlds’. “The streets are a theatre of contiguity, chance, conflict andconviviality.”4Streets are also serves as canvases for public expression against politicalregimes and for social issues and religious beliefs.The current literature on streets in India can begrouped into three categories.
The first includes writings that describe thestreet as a space of difference. These are characterized by descriptions ofIndian streets that are ‘deviations from modern ideals’. Kidambi 2007, Bose1965). The second includes writings that characterize streets as ‘manifestationof power, arenas on which forces of global capital and ideologies ofneo-liberalism unfold (Rajagopal 2001, Whitehead and More 2007).’5Thethird includes writings on the culture of Indian streets with descriptions oftheir sensory and chaotic efficiency and their place within the Indian urbancontext (Appadurai 1987, Srivatsa 1997, Edensor 1998). Footpath is a pedestrian way, walking trail that isused only by pedestrians and not other forms of traffic such as motorizedvehicles. It can be alleys, lanes, steps etc.
Historically, When there were nomotorized vehicle, Streets fulfilled the function of footpaths. Nowadays it’s apart of road which is used only by pedestrians.Footpaths also give an interesting experience of publicspace. One can walk whole days in cities to experience this public space; onecan learn about the culture just by walking around.
Indian cities portraydiversity of cultures and activities. Street activities work as ‘eyes on thestreet’, that keeps cities safe, and ‘Creates neighborly environment’ (JaneJacobs).