Urban public spaces, the best 5 new projects in Europe

With a jury led by landscape architect Teresa Galí-Izard, the winning projects of this year’s European Prize for Urban Public Space have been announced. Here are the most relevant.

An international jury led by landscape architect Teresa Galí-Izard has announced the annual winners of the European Prize for Urban Public Space, now in its 11th year. With increasingly alarming data on urban heat islands and countless other complications caused by climate change, being able to design resilient public spaces open to rich biodiversity is an increasingly important challenge for architects and landscape architects.

We present here the top five projects shortlisted for this important European award dedicated to urban public space.

Catharijnesingel, Utrecht

The winning project – selected from a total of 326 projects from 35 different countries – redesigns the Catharijnesingel canal in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Signed by OKRA landschapsarchitecten, the jury considered the reconstruction of the canal, as well as the restoration of a linear park running along its banks, to be an exemplary intervention for the survival of our cities in this new climate era.

The landscape renovation includes the reorganisation of the traffic that occupied the site, diverting cars and giving priority to pedestrians, and the subsequent extension of the footpath along the canal invites recreational and sports use. Restoring access to the water is the key aspect of this project, reconnecting the now lost link between the citizens of Utrecht and the city’s historical relationship with water and the canal in a new space.

Flow, Bruxelles

Designed and built with the participation of fifty young people, Flow is the first open-air swimming pool built in Brussels in forty years. With a temporal structure, the project reintroduces a rich meeting place that the community has been clamouring for through the non-profit collective Pool is Cool. As it is a simple, inexpensive and modular system that can easily be built by several people, it is a good example of how everyone can participate in the creation of an active and healthy public space.

Hage, Lund

A courtyard on the outskirts of the Swiss town of Lund – enclosed on three sides by walls made of bricks salvaged from a demolished industrial building – becomes an alternative to the logic of rapid urbanisation of its surroundings thanks to the design by Brendeland & Kristoffersen architects. The owner of the land has decided not to follow the urban development of the area, but to let it take its own course open to citizens with an anticipation of a gradual evolution of the place: a hortus inconclusus.

Saint Sernin Square, Toulouse

The design for Saint Sernin Square in Toulouse restores prominence to the city’s historic urban fabric. The cars that occupied its surface have been removed and the lost trees have been reintegrated as organisers of the public space. The simplicity of the proposal, the use of materials and the recognition of the site’s heritage have become the mechanisms of the project to reactivate a new public space, once compromised, recovering its vertical dimension and establishing an area that can accommodate a range of public uses.

“Sporta pils dārzi” urban garden, Riga

The “Sporta pils dārzi” community urban garden is the result of a citizens’ initiative to reclaim an abandoned plot and becomes a new type of public space. The project consists of a distribution system of plants and interstitial spaces that will be occupied during events and meetings. The project results in a new system, a model of urban space that incorporates productive, cultural and social logics and integrates the emerging natural elements as part of the community space.

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