What is the definition of a public space? What does it mean to have an open public space? What is the best way to create a public space? What are the difficulties that a public space faces? What constitutes the components of a public space? What is the best way to think about its users? When I come across the area of an urban open public space, these are the queries that run through my architect brain. According to the definition, an urban open public space is a private or publicly owned open place where anybody, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, age, or socioeconomic status, is allowed to be physically present. With themes this week related to the said context, I feel like I’m at a crossroad having to pick between four alternative paths: nature-based solutions, abandoned places, lake rejuvenation, and urban forestry. Each path has its own set of approaches and can bring me to different destinations, but they are all connected with a similar concept of being public. When it comes to designing public spaces, one tends to take a more human-cantered approach, yet there is the potential to redefine the term “public” in this context. With the four themes offered to me in this setting, I must reinvent and approach urban open public spaces as a place of human-nature interaction. I must see public spaces as the mediators of cultivating the idea of coexistence in an urban context.
When I think of a public space, I always think of a garden in Ahmedabad, which was one of my favourite places to visit as a kid. This garden is known as the “Law Garden,” and I recall being quite excited to go there. One of the reasons was that the site had a large water body with fish and tortoises in it; it is a completely natural environment, and I recall my interactions with the fishes, as I used to feed them fish food sold just outside the garden space. Ducks and other living things were drawn to this water body, and it was always fascinating to watch them and chase them down to catch them. Another motivation was my curiosity about the place, which drove me to want to explore everything and learn something new every time I went. When my mother made me count the number of fish in the pond, this space also served as a maths class for me. But as I grew older, this link almost faded, as did my connections with the environment, the concept of going to such a public space, and my curiosity to explore the natural environment. This is a really personal experience for me, and it was only through classroom discussions this week, that I was able to reconnect with this childhood memory. I’m wondering as to how the materialistic life has enslaved us to the point that we have forgotten that we are also a part of the natural world. I’m not aware when and how I underwent this transformation.