White Northern Lights in Finland
The violent and tumultuous chain of recent events on Ukraine’s Independence Square in Kiev, shown above, underscores the continuing debates over urban design and public space. While grand squares often serve as cradles of democracy, we should remember that authoritarian forces can also redesign such public spaces to crush grassroots social movements.
Matt Ford’s recent article in The Atlantic on “A Dictator’s Guide to Urban Design” points to the enduring tension between the square as democratic symbol and authoritarian tool: ”the public square [serves] as an epicenter of democratic expression and protest, and the lack of one—or the deliberate manipulation of such a space—as a way for autocrats to squash dissent through urban design.”
Public space matters, not just for everyday urbanism, but for the very heart and soul of democratic societies.