Assembling a metropolitan network of public space: tracing planning processes and spatial change in Lisbon (2000-2020)

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Submission Summary
The article aims at providing insight into the recent evolution of Lisbon’s public space structure, from the perspective of a multi-dimensional and multi-scale metropolitan network. It aims at understanding what were the key drivers of public space development and how that process influenced and was influenced by a metropolitan-scale framework (institutions, planning tools, policy objectives, infrastructural networks, spatial configurations). The research is framed under “MetroPublicNet - Building the foundations of a Metropolitan Public Space Network to support the robust, low-carbon and cohesive city: Projects, lessons and prospects in Lisbon”, a three-year project initiated in 2021 and funded by the FCT, the Portuguese national research agency, which aims at mapping, decoding, assessing and discussing the result of 20 years of public space improvements in Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA). The role of public space in the shaping of cities and its spatial organization is, fundamentally, a dynamic process in which infrastructural, social and political realms intersect (Bodnar, 2015). When looked at local scales, public space qualities and impact are clear and have been widely discussed and promoted (Carmona, Gabrieli, Hickman et al, 2018), with significant public investment in its upgrade and development. On the other hand, in metropolitan territories, shaped by large natural systems, densely knit networks and highly-heterogenous urban fabrics, the role of public space is often overlooked and overshadowed by sectoral perspectives on specific urban systems: transportation and road networks, water and supply provision networks, urban facilities, land-use distribution, housing amenities. The research is based on the premise that public space can be conceptualized as an infrastructure of the metropolis (Clos, 2016), an operative element to tackle complex urban territories and to articulate multiple networks and urban fabrics (Portas, 1997) and a fundamental bedrock of urbanity (Solà-Morales, 2010). It is acknowledged in EU Urban Agenda as fundamental in integrated and cohesive responses to today’s structural urban changes and societal challenges: 1) climate change and nature-based solutions, waterfronts and water sensitive urban design, urban agriculture; 2) spatial integration of road infrastructure, promotion of accessible, walkable and transit-oriented development; 3) neighborhood connection and accessibility, multi-functionality and commercial vitality (Bravo, 2018). Nevertheless, there is still a significant research gap in territorialized linkages between public space design rationalities, specific societal challenges and EU/national/metropolitan/local policy tools, which the project aims to address. Its mapping as a spatial structure can help trace its evolution and highlight critical territorial tensions. The article provides a systematized and time-framed (2000-2020) overview of meaningful design rationales of public space intervention in Lisbon metropolitan area in which three fields are intertwined: 1) territorial location and metropolitan integration; 2) territorial systems embedded in the interventions (i.e. water supply infrastructure, ecological corridors, road networks); 3) political and institutional framework (i.e. promotor, funding, planning rationale). This systematization offers a geo-referenced mapping of more than 1000 interventions surveyed in metropolitan Lisbon, allowing for a typological and multi-criteria assessment of their characteristics. A brief discussion on MetroPublicNet’s specific case studies allow for an overview of representative trends, from which representative lines of public space development are highlighted. This research is seen as a methodological approach to outline the role of public space development in contemporary metropolitan planning, specifically where EU funds and societal challenges rationales have had a key role in urban policy.
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5: Uniqueness and connectivity. Al-Baraha: unlocking urban futures
Assistant Professor
CIAUD, Faculdade de Arquitetura, Universidade de Lisboa

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