The second Future of Places conference brought together 300 people from 40+ countries, who were interested in advancing the public space agenda. The conference consisted of a range of sessions including plenary discussions, academic sessions, practical workshops and discussion forums as well as key events throughout the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.
Of particular interest was the fact that the speakers highlighted a broad range of issues in relation to public space (ie. rapidly urbanizing cities, street networks, building cities to human scale, multidisciplinary spaces, land value capture, a city wide approach to planning, access to public space, inclusive public space with particular focus on vulnerable groups, a people centred approach to planning public spaces, and the importance of including public space in the sustainable urban development agenda). These issues are essential to not only building good public spaces, but also to promoting key principles of sustainable urban development- such as integration instead of segregation, compactness instead of sprawl and connectivity instead of congestion.
“The first Future of Places conference held in Stockholm in 2013 convened the leading global thinkers on public space to discuss and prioritize the key elements of public space that need to be included as part of the new urban agenda that would arise out of the Habitat III conference in 2016. Following this, the Future of Places II conference in Buenos Aires in 2014 resulted in a carefully crafted set of key messages that would be used to influence the preparatory discussions in the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Habitat III process; both of which are currently shaping the global development agenda. The second Future of Places conference differentiated itself from its predecessor in two ways: firstly, it focused on the topic of Streets as Public Spaces and Drivers of Urban Prosperity, and secondly, it elevated itself from a conference aimed at collecting knowledge on public space into a conference that aimed at leveraging the political processes of the United Nations system (namely, the Post 2015 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, and also the Habitat III process). In doing just that, the Future of Places collected expertise from the range of stakeholder groups present in both the first and second Future of Places conferences and reflected their views in an outcome document delivering 10 key messages to the Secretary General of Habitat III Dr. Joan Clos in an Open Consultation in New York on September 11, 2014. This shift in focus has now positioned the Future of Places to spearhead the public space agenda in the preparatory discussions in the lead up to Habitat III in 2016; which will eventually establish the new urban agenda of the 21st century.”
The upcoming Future of Places III conference which is set to be held back in Stockholm in late June 2015 strives to draft the public space message that should be included as part of the new urban agenda that will be discussed and adopted at the Habitat III conference in 2016. The agenda promises to include elements related to participatory planning, a city-wide approach, public space inclusive to all- specifically the urban poor, building cities to human scale and much more. In the lead up to Future of Places III, the diverse network of stakeholders that are part of the Future of Places movement will be working behind the scenes to ensure that the UN Member States understand the imperative role of public space as the spine of urbanization.”