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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Trolese

Urban spaces and social inclusion

Cities have grown in size and density, and the global urban population is rapidly increasing; more than half of the world's population now lives in cities, with the United Nations projecting that figure will rise to 68% by 2050 (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2018). However, because of the city's size and excess, residents are experiencing a shared sense of social isolation and personal interactions are becoming more ephemeral within the rigid structures of a consumerist society.

Cities are hotspots for social differences such as ability status, age, class, citizenship, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic position. These differences in the city are frequently created and enacted rather than simply revealed, and can be used as triggers for action, social mobilization, and performances that take place in the city's private and public spaces. In other words, public spaces serve as a playground for society to reinvent itself (Bunschoten, 2002).

To accommodate such social distinctions and the growing diversity, the concept of "inclusion" was developed. More precisely, the concept of an "Inclusive City" provides a solution for urban diversity. The inclusive city can be defined as one that promotes "social inclusion" by providing adequate housing and adequate basic services and facilities to all residents, regardless of race or ethnic origin, as well as equal access to social amenities, opportunities, and public goods critical to everyone's well-being. Additionally, the inclusive city promotes "political inclusion" by safeguarding citizens' rights and liberties and encouraging social and political engagement. Economic inclusion is another critical aspect of the inclusive city; it refers to equal business and employment opportunities, as well as the promotion of pro-poor economic policies through the economic development process. Finally, "cultural inclusion" is critical for an inclusive city because it entails valuing people's cultural rights through the promotion of creative artistic expression and heritage activities (UN-HABITAT, 2008; Salah Ouf, 2020).

Numerous studies have established that creating a happy city requires a focus on wellbeing in city design and policy, and that social inclusion has a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. Thus, it is critical to develop more creative, diverse, and inclusive urban spaces if we are to achieve a happy, well-being-focused city. As a result, mayors and local governments around the world are collaborating with designers, architects, planners, and residents to propose and implement innovative and practical solutions for an inclusive, safe, and sustainable urban environment. When it comes to inclusion in a public space, every decision counts in the design process, but it doesn't mean we should expect every choice to be ideal right away. The best approach to avoid these hazards of bad design is to engage in a strong community process that involves "Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper" design trials as well as continuing public space management to guarantee that design and programming both develop in response to community demands (Peinhardt and Storring, 2019)

Katherine Peinhardt and Nate Storring (2019) illustrate five strategies for designing and redesigning public spaces for all:


Great settings are built to include and delight everyone, even individuals with varying cognitive, sensory, physical, or developmental skills. Almost every aspect of a public environment can be made more accessible: Tactile crosswalk strips; accessible toilets and parking spaces; colour contrast applications to poles, bollards, and steps; and more. The goal should be to ensure that everyone feels at ease in a location.


To determine the best ways to make all people feel welcome and safe, public space designers must pay attention to how people of diverse gender identities and expressions traverse and use a public area.

When designing gender-inclusive venues it is important to consider the issue of safety, realising obvious access and exit paths, visible navigation, and unimpeded lines of sight into a public area can make everyone feel more at ease in a park or square. However, it is also critical to create exciting, inclusive spaces not only for all genders, but also all sexualities.


Often public space planners aim for either replication of other "iconic" parks or low-maintenance, low-imagination facilities that result in bland urban spaces that discourage social interaction. To ensure that a space is always a location of true cultural interchange, designers must be agile in their design choices and maintain a mindset of deep listening.


Whether the designer realises it or not, the design of public space always conveys a message. Choices such as the content, aesthetics of branding, wayfinding, memorials, and signage send a cumulative message that each potential user and user group may understand differently. As a result, it is critical that during the design process, place makers ensure that exhibits, such as plaques, monuments, and signage, reflect local history so that members of the community feel recognised, validated and acknowledged.


Public venues that allow underrepresented vendors to sell their wares might draw a larger audience and help to re-distribute economic possibilities to those who might not otherwise have access to a physical site to sell their goods or services.

Educating through urban spaces innovation

Many cities around the world are intending to "build back better" in the aftermath of Covid-19, presenting an excellent opportunity to create more inclusive urban areas (Hadani and Vey, 2020).

On a variety of levels, urban territories can give unique learning opportunities, such as enabling people to perceive themselves as citizens and members of a community, or communities (from the street, to the neighbourhood, to the city layer). They allow people to engage in meaningful and direct interactions with city issues, concerns, and opportunities in collaborative problem-solving situations. Furthermore, witnessing the urban landscape exposes people to social diversity, which is important for developing empathy and tolerance, both of which are highly valued in today's world. As a result, it is critical to understand urban spaces as fruitful learning environments, and to investigate what people can learn in urban territory that cannot be taught through formal education or work, as well as what urban characteristics can be developed to foster social connection and empowerment (Mazzuco, 2019)

There is a close connection between the physical (building something to represent a concept) and internal, cognitiv

e activity (Stull et al., 2018). As a result, a well-designed physical environment may have a positive impact on hands-on activities as well as internal cognitive processes related to learning, such as theoretical concept attainment. As a result, it is critical that urban places be constructed with this in mind (Huges and Morrison, 2020).

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