Public room

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Square as a public space in Breslau (Polish: Wrocław)

As a public space (also public area ) is referred to those spatial constellation from a public transport or green area and adjacent private or public buildings is formed. The interaction of these elements determines the character and quality of the public space. The prerequisite is that the area belongs to a municipality or a corporation under public law and is freely accessible to the public , and is managed and maintained by the municipality . In general, this includes public traffic areas for pedestrians , bicycles and motor vehicles , but also parks and squares .

Public spaces exist in all cultures and are not limited to cities. In Europe, they are determined by different traditions of communally used areas in rural areas (common land, commons). The practices of the common use of space in non-European societies of the past and present are even richer. Natural waters are common property in almost all cultures and are therefore public spaces.

In general usage, the term restrictively describes “urban public spaces” and is mainly used in urban planning and traffic planning . The public space faces the private space. Public buildings and transportation are another form of public facilities .


A private shopping center is only apparently a public space

A distinction is made between three types of spatial uses:

  • public room,
  • semi-public space and
  • private space

as well as their functional importance in division and design as well as reception .

Meetings of people in public spaces (e.g. demonstrations) are subject to the Assembly Act . Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 , public spaces in the western world have been increasingly controlled by video surveillance . In many cities and municipalities, the use of public space (e.g. for meetings) is regulated by statutes , commercial use (such as for outside areas of shops and restaurants) is usually regulated by a fee schedule .

In addition to the legally interpreted approach and consideration of public space, the social functions of space in particular must also be taken into account with regard to the changed perception due to mechanization (and as a result of the security discussion ) . The main problems here are the undesirable developments caused by economization and popularization .

Division and layout

Community area Forests or lakes are part of the public space, but mostly only public areas within built-up areas are meant. The public space can be divided and designed differently and is used differently.

Current developments and approaches

urban planning

Table tennis in public spaces on the Stralau peninsula in Berlin

The importance of public space for social cohesion and security was expressed in 1963 as part of a practical criticism of modernity by Jane Jacobs. Jacobs opposes modern construction production, which provides for “lawns” between the houses, but no socially controlled and productive public spaces.

In Germany, the publisher and publicist Wolf Jobst Siedler criticized the several times in his publications such as Die gemordete Stadt - Abgesang auf Putte und Straße, Platz und Baum (1978) or Die Verorde Gemütlichkeit - Abgesang auf Spielstraße, Verkehrsberuhigung und Stadtbildpflege (1985) public space and its usage requirements often diverge.

The dissolution of public space is caused in the 20th century by its use for motor vehicles and for the practices of the separation of functions guided by the principles of modernity. There is a specialization of the rooms in leisure and consumption rooms on the one hand (pedestrian zones in old towns) and traffic areas on the other, whereby the latter is mainly dominated by car traffic and designed according to its requirements. In this specialization, the diversity, the social mix and the community-building function of public space are lost.

After the rediscovery of public space as a central element of the “European idea of ​​a community that creates identity”, which has grown over the centuries, its elements are increasingly used as control instruments by urban planners . By dividing and designing public spaces in a way that is appropriate for use, the quality of life and amenity of the city quarters is to be upgraded, and brownfields and building sites are to be made attractive for private investors. The public space is seen as a link between private spaces, but is also subject to special political attention. The “Hanover creates space” project of the Lower Saxony state capital Hanover can serve as an example.


Many municipalities increasingly see themselves unable to maintain and cultivate public space and facilities themselves. There are increasing tendencies towards the privatization of publicly used facilities or the transfer of rights and obligations to private companies - such as airports and train stations . As a result, privatized streets , underground car parks , multi-storey car parks or shopping centers are subject to the domiciliary rights and private law use of the respective owners . Critics are of the opinion that this development would restrict general fundamental rights such as freedom of demonstration and assembly if private companies or owners make use of their domestic rights. The German Federal Court of Justice initially did not share this criticism in its 2006 judgment. However , on February 22, 2011, the first Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court agreed to the above-mentioned criticism in the interests of the plaintiff, and referred the lower-level judgments of 2005 and 2006 back to the Frankfurt am Main District Court for a new decision : “Public-sector mixed companies in the form of private law are ... subject to a direct binding of fundamental rights. "


To finance the construction, restoration and maintenance of public spaces, more and more public-private partnerships are being promoted and increasingly implemented. Care and maintenance of public spaces are becoming more difficult for city budgets in the course of savings. In various municipalities , the maintenance of public parks has been taken over by private associations and interest groups. One such citizens' association emerged from the Lichtenrade-Ost eV (BILO) association and has been maintaining a green area in Berlin-Lichtenrade since 1981 under the name of the “ Lichtenrader Volkspark ” sponsoring association .

See also


  • Ernst Seidl (ed.): Political space types. On the power of public building and spatial structures in the 20th century (= Yearbook Art and Politics of the Guernica Society, 11th year), v + r unipress, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-89971-712-9 .
  • Guido Brendgens: The Loss of Public Space. Simulated public in times of neoliberalism. In: Utopia creative. H. 182 (Dec 2005), pp. 1088-1097.
  • Alexander Mitscherlich: The inhospitable nature of our cities. Incitement to strife. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-518-42046-1 .
  • Burckhardt, Lucius Fezer, Jesko (eds.): Who plans the planning ?: Architecture, politics and people. Martin Schmitz Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-927795-39-9 .
  • Laura Bruns: Make the city yourself. JOVIS Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86859-325-9 .
  • Johannes Fiedler: House and Street. In: Challenge of the base zone. Wüstenrot Foundation, Jovis Verlag 2014.
  • Wolfgang Becker : The disturbed idyll of the place. Public space and modern art, a model of thought. In: places. In: the scales. Journal of Grünenthal GmbH , Volume 36, Aachen 1997, No. 1, pp. 38-44.

Web links

Commons : public space  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Random House, New York 1961, new edition 1993, German: Death and Life of Great American Cities. Bertelsmann 1963
  2. ^ Johannes Fiedler: House and Street. In: Challenge of the base zone. Published by the Wüstenrot Foundation, Jovis Verlag, 2014.
  3. Ernst Seidl: 'Political Space Type'. Introduction to a neglected category. In: Seidl: Political Space Types. On the power of public building and spatial structures in the 20th century. 2009, pp. 9-19.
  4. ^ Judgment of January 20, 2006 - V ZR 134/05.
  5. Principles on the judgment of the First Senate of February 22, 2011 - 1 BvR 699/06 . Retrieved May 8, 2011.