Private, Public and Social Space

Years ago the Danish planer Jan Gehl urged us to think more about “the space between buildings”, While this year in Stuttgart we thought we would see if we could encourage our speakers to share their thoughts with our international participants coming from cities around the world on the concept of “Social Space”.

Most planners and policy makers when they think of space at all usually corral their thoughts in terms of it being either private or public. But social space is a third option, albeit it must always be “public” in the sense freely accessible to all. Social space is public space that succeeds and brings people together.

Let’s consider a couple of examples in the hope of clarifying.* * * Click here for some illustrations of Private, Public and Social Space

• If we take a lane that has been reserved for cars, and make it available to bicycles we have converted public space to social space. And if we then fill those lanes with cyclists, we have guaranteed the social space.

• Take out ten spaces reserved for private car parking, and put one share car in their place. Voila, social space x 10.

• Or if we replace one space for parked car with a rack holding ten safely parked bikes, we have once again created valuable social space.

• If we slow down car traffic to 30 kph or less in a zone or on a street, we have de factor created social space, since the slow street will be used in different ways and by not only different but a much larger range of types of people and uses.

In social spaces we can walk, bike, sit, lean, stand and talk, perhaps snack on something, ask questions to others, and more generally live as social beings, rather than in isolation.

There are many other examples and we are hopefully that our speakers will give some thought to this, and will share those thoughts with the meeting for discussion and yet more examples.

Here in closing – click here — are a few examples of what we call the social space format for graphic images. More are available at


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