The Hidden Possibilities of Public Spaces

Official, well-known squares, plazas, or streets located usually in city centers are meant to be shared public spaces, but they often don’t play this role for the local communities. So, people have started taking action themselves.

Leonardo garden Budapest

“Many places that create a true, public feeling are neither spectacular nor perfectly designed.”


Article by Magdalena Kubecka

Every day in Bratislava, many people pass through Kamenné Namestie, entering either the Tesco supermarket or other commercial venues. Very few spend more time in this square because there is no good reason to stop. Until the 1990s, it used to be a bustling place with a functionalist, exciting design; now, it looks sad and empty.

People have no inclination to stay in the chaotic, unpleasant square full of billboards and cars. The area is fragmented, and it’s missing a sense of space and continuity. It becomes even more painful when we think that this is the psychological center of the city, and the plaza, with its surroundings, should be one of the most important urban spaces in Bratislava.

Hidden Possibilities

©Maciej Krüger

It is also only a five-minute walk from the main square – Hlavne Namestie. In 2016, research carried out by Marco & Placemakers – a city design and research consultancy – showed that the square had almost no permanent users, which gave it a feeling of anonymity. Most of the activities in the area are strictly utilitarian – transition, purchase, waiting – and do not combine with any pleasant ways of spending time. Some people gather around the old Paulownia tree, but even here there is an imbalance as they are mainly men since women usually feel unsafe in this place. But we’ve seen a few proposals for the revitalization of the entire square recently, but the difficulties come when talking about a common vision for the space and the current status of the land ownership.

This one of the most neglected areas in the Slovakian capital city, and it is only one example of the gradual decline which represents a serious problem for many urban spaces in European cities. It has undergone dramatic development, but its current condition is quite disappointing, similar to, for example, Parade Square in Warsaw, located in front of the giant Palace of Culture and Science. It is hard to imagine such a large, under-utilized space in the very heart of a capital that is so over-extended that it excludes itself from everyday metropolitan life. Despite being located in the transport and administrative center, its role in social life seems to be marginal. It functions as a temporary bus station and a car park. The discussion over the Polish square has lasted more than 20 years now and had so many ups and downs that very few believe in the implementation of any idea there. Even in the face of a new architecture competition around it organized in 2017.




Magdalena Kubecka – a researcher, a placemaker and an educator based in Warsaw.


Adopted text from Magazyn Miasta / Cities Magazine vol. 2

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