Public space provides the grounds for cities to be seen and experienced. Whether it is a square, a market, or a park, public space in cities has been noted as the place where ideas are exchanged, city identity is built and citizenship is learned (Carr et al., 1992; Low, 2000; Goodsell, 2003). Such places are important and even necessary for citizens to enjoy a good quality of life and well-being (Relph, 1993).
Historically, public places have played an important role in cities in many cultures. Public spaces such as the Greek agora, Spanish plaza, and colonial town square provided a place for markets, celebrations and civic life to flourish (Carr et al., 1992). In modern cities public spaces play many diverse roles; they are sites of recreation, economic development, consumption and community; they take shape as plazas, parks and urban entertainment areas; they mean many things to many people and can establish an identity for a neighborhood or a city at large. Public spaces, in any incarnation, are important to civic life (Goodsell, 2003). While we may have a good understanding of why public spaces are important in cities, what is still largely unknown is how the planning process itself contributes to the development of these important places. In addition to understanding the role of public spaces in cities today, the means of public space creation, the underlying interests, processes, and motivations involved with their construction, must also be scrutinized and better understood in order to come to a full understanding of how public spaces achieve their desired goals.
Two case studies were chosen to illustrate approaches to public space planning: Toronto’s Yonge Dundas Square and the City of Mississauga’s City Centre Parks. These sites were chosen because of their similarities and also because of their differences. Both sites were intended to achieve similar goals of creating a sense of place and creating new opportunities for economic development in their...
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