What is public space? According to UNESCO, a public space “refers to an area or place that is open and accessible to all peoples, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. These are public gathering spaces such as plazas, squares and parks. Connecting spaces, such as sidewalks and streets, are also public spaces.”
Public spaces, like streets, plazas, and parks, have been pulled to the forefront of our collective consciousness during both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Justice for George Floyd Protests. Outdoor recreation spaces ballooned in popularity as folks were forced to stay home and other commonly trafficked spaces were closed. In Detroit, Belle Isle was closed multiple times during Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order due to overcrowding. In recent weeks, protests against police brutality and for Justice for George Floyd have led to people gathering in public space in cities all over the world to fight for equity.
Today, we will be thinking about public space, its uses, and your connection to it.
Goals: Age Group: 8th-12th grades
To learn about public space
To consider your relationship with public space
To think about what you would like public space to look like
Supplies: Time: 30-45 minutes
Paper or notebook
Pens, colored pencils, makers (whatever you like to draw with)
Read a short article on public space, answer the questions below, and then visualize what public space would look like to you:
What is public space?
Do you use public space?
Do you have a park or other public space within ten minutes of your home? What are they like?
Do you use public spaces in Detroit? Why or why not?
Do you like these spaces in Detroit?
Do you feel like they are welcoming?
Do they engage your interests and meet your needs?
Do you feel like they were made for you?
Is there a difference between public spaces in downtown Detroit and in the neighborhoods of the city?
Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you interact with public space, like parks? If so, how?
The use of private and public space often differs based on how laws are applied to them. Protesting on private property without permission can be trespassing and can lead to further repercussions. However, public space exists, by definition, so folks can practice their rights to assembly and free speech, just like the protests against police brutality. Have the protests changed the way you interact with public spaces, like streets, sidewalks, and plazas (which can broadly include Campus Martius and Hart Plaza)? If so, how?
Now, take your notebook or paper. Draw or design your ideal public space. It could be a park, plaza, or anything you’d like. What types of structures or spaces would it contain and why? Reply to this post with your design!
Do you think public space is important? Why or why not?
As budgets are cut due to the pandemic, should we cut funding to parks and other public spaces?
Are all public spaces equal? What characteristics do you think ‘quality’ public spaces have?
Do you think all neighborhoods in Detroit have equal access to public space? Why or why not?
How would you like to see the City of Detroit design public space? What would you like to see in these public spaces?
After this activity, has your perspective on public space changed?
For the better?
For the worse?