The Second International Online Conference on the Future of Urban Public Spaces(FUPS2021)


Public space is the crossroad on which all the sciences and knowledge that are related to cities meet. Concerning the complex challenges that cities are facing around the globe, the concept of public space studies requires a multidisciplinary approach in connection with environmental, social, political, economic, and health issues. Considering the massive impact of public space on the continuation of cities' historical identity and its role in improving quality of life, the necessity of revisiting the concept of and experiences has gained much more significance in the 21st century as an urban era. The reason lies with the fact that urban changes resulting from socio-political-economic events have led to profound transformations in public space' nature during the past two decades. Urban experts need to develop a complete, purposeful, and practical understanding of the past and the present of public space for future planning by reviewing the related experiences without burdening themselves with theoretical approaches to the current changes.

With the motto of "Public Space: Learning from the Past and Present for the Future," this conference aims to prepare a ground on which urban experts worldwide can share their knowledge via public spaces experiences related to new urban challenges.

We appreciate any collaboration from all over the world. In FUPS2018, we had active participants from Austria, UK, Indonesia, New Zealand, Turkey, US, China, Russia, Check Republic, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Nigeria, India, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Netherland, Romania, and Iran. 

Conference Chairs:

Ehsan Ranjbar

Mohammadreza Pourjafar


FUPS2021 welcomes papers that consider closely case studies of public spaces in the following 11 themes:


Theme 1: Public Spaces and Lessons from History

This theme pursues to provide new insights related to the relationship between public space and history. Public spaces have been critical sites of cultural, political, and economic life from early civilizations to the present, and have provided a unique conduit for the socio-spatial study of urban history. Evidently, an interdisciplinary understanding of the history of public spaces is a prerequisite for creating a valuable perspective on contemporary and future public spaces.

The debate on the relationship between the concepts of public space and history is crucial to understand the deep historical roots by which our contemporary preoccupations with the nature of public space is affected, to learn from the urban history to transform contemporary public places, and to address the ways historical thinking can be used to imagine the future of public spaces.

This panel invites papers that concentrate on investigating public spaces from a historical perspective, tracing the layers of human history under the scrutiny of public spaces, addressing contemporary issues at the intersection of history and public space from different geographical contexts, and narrating thick descriptions of historical public spaces. Manuscripts other than what has been mentioned above but still related to theme 1, are also welcomed.


Theme 2. Public Space & Environmental Challenges

A new story: "our current way of urban life provokes environmental challenges; afterward, we are waiting for disastrous consequences."

Adaptation to environmental and climatic features of the context and the conformance of urban spaces to natural circumstances have historically been among the principles of urban planning and design. Considering the climate change conundrum in the recent decades, it is time to refer back to such an evident principle.

The impact of the urban system on climate change can be illustrated by the fact that most greenhouse gas emissions are generated out of the urban areas around the world. In other words, urban systems are a principal source of emerging climate threats. The specific effects of climate change on urban life in public spaces vary based on the context, this may include reductions in potable water, heavy rain-falls, lack of precipitation, increased flooding, inland storms, extreme heat events, and pollution intensification. With this background of urban challenges, urban planning and design knowledge are not well equipped. While urban planners are mostly seen as responsible and capable of adapting to climate risks, their role, the actions to be accepted, and the responsibilities of city agencies are often unclear. Thus, it is time to develop new perspectives of creating quality public spaces regarding environmental challenges to save the vibrant social life of urban spaces.

Papers focusing on the following subjects are most welcomed in this theme: climate change impacts on public spaces social life, adapting public spaces to climate change, climate change mitigation in public spaces, social life of public spaces in highly polluted cities, developing polluted-clean zones in public spaces, environmental initiatives in public spaces, thermal comfort in public spaces and nature-based urban design. 


Theme 3: Public Space; Quality, Design and Management

How is “quality public space” defined in your context? Does quality of public spaces affect the quality of life? This theme pursues to get insights on the way(s) urban designers/planners can contribute to creating public spaces enjoying high quality. As “place” is intrinsically context-based, debates on its quality is also better defined when considering the local context, thus, manuscripts on this topic from different geographical contexts would actually provide valuable insights.

The role of urban “design” policies and the designer per se is also an area of consideration in this theme. What role shall urban designers adopt to guarantee the best quality of public spaces? How can the design process be rearranged to get the most out of urban policy making? Is “design” exclusively the role of the official designer or it can also be created through informal processes? These are among the large number of topics on this theme.

“Management” of public spaces, the blind spot of urban planning and design is the last area of debate in theme 3. Having public spaces of high quality designed cannot ensure an enhanced quality of life unless effective management policies are defined and maintained. Manuscripts can also emphasize the intersection of quality, design and management processes which is also an area of interest in this theme.


Theme 4. Public Space & Urban Transformation

In the 21st century, cities are the significant setting of living, trading, creativity, and knowledge. Over half of the global population already live in cities, and urbanization proceeds at full speed ahead. Multidisciplinary approaches, broad-minded thinking, and bold boundary crossings are required to solve the challenges affecting the quality of life i.e. employment, sustainable economic growth, security, environment, and overall well-being. Quality public spaces are a crucial need for contemporary urban life, having a great impact on the consequences of urban transformation worldwide. 

Urban transformation considers micro/macro level changes caused by several inner and outer forces in a city over time. The transformation of cities suggest that urban transition has been accelerating since the mid-20th century, and sudden and irreversible changes have replaced gradual changes. Following the transformation of the city's overall structure, urban public spaces undergo unpredictable transitions as well. The socio-political effects of public spaces and cultural transformations of cities and their impact on the nature of public spaces over time is a matter of great importance to FUPS2021.

With a concentration on case studies, this theme welcomes papers focusing on the following subjects; the impacts of political and economic changes on public spaces, new urban cultures in public spaces, new types of public spaces regarding urban transformation, managing urban transformation impacts on public spaces, public space and immigration, public spaces and growing inequality and also public spaces and gentrification.  


Theme 5: Public Space and Urban Regeneration

Growing public demand for quality urban space as a public good, frames an urgency call to put the public life at the heart of more wider urban plans and policies. Urban regeneration as an important part of urban policy is a network of actions at different spatial scales to reverse the urban social, economic, and physical decline, aligned with sustainable development goals to improve the livability of cities and quality of life.

“Public Space and Urban Regeneration” seeks to get new insights on the ways designing, planning and management of quality public spaces can act as a powerful catalyst in the process of urban regeneration.

This theme may include perspectives on the interaction between urban regeneration and different type and scale of urban spaces; physical, social, institution and economic aspect of public space regeneration; requirements and principles of public space regeneration; the role of events and culture in public space regeneration, challenges of urban regeneration and privatization of public space and financing methods in urban space regeneration projects.

It also welcomes the stories and practices of public space regeneration all over the world, clarifying how public space regeneration has brought livability and quality into the spatial structure of cities, and also its considerable impact on improving citizens’ quality of life.


Theme 6: Public Spaces and Health

This theme pursues to provide new insights on the relationship between public space and health. Public spaces are associated with a wide range of health benefits and broadly define the way we live, promote an active lifestyle and social cohesion. So, there is a great potential to promote healthy public spaces through targeted and integrated policies. 

Recent studies have demonstrated the negative consequences of limited access to green, inclusive, and safe public spaces on city residents' mental and physical health. Therefore, the health criteria are required to be considered the mainstream of public spaces and develop a paradigm shift in the design, use, behaviors, and perceptions of citizens in public spaces. Possible causative mechanisms underpinning the public space and health relationship include providing an environment that enables people to live happier and healthier. 

This panel invites papers that concentrate on re-establishing the relationship between health and public spaces, including subjects such as: contemporary challenges at the intersection of urban health and public spaces, creating happy places, community partnership for urban health actions, urban health inequalities n public spaces, climate change health impacts on public spaces, and mental health issues in terms of public spaces.

Manuscripts other than what has been mentioned above but still related to theme 6 are also welcomed.


Theme 7. Public Space and Technology

Development of a variety of smart technologies and digitalization have impacted several facets of urban life and indicate a paradigm shift in the way urbanization is experienced and researched. Smart Cities as the dominant discourse and as an urban policy seek to solve urban challenges and improve the quality of urban life using emerging technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data Mining, etc.

Urban public spaces have been transformed accordingly and affected by the rapid technological changes in response to contemporary conditions. The impact of technology can be observed from different perspectives, and also known as efficient tools for developing opportunities and increasing qualities. However, based on scientific research, we still know very little about urban public spaces transformation by the technology. Thus, studying its potentials and impacts is essential to overcoming the challenges of future urban public spaces.

FUPS 2021 honorably invites researchers interested in “Public Spaces and the Technology” to participate in any relevant area including smart urban spaces, smart infrastructure, technology and the quality of urban spaces, emerging technology in public spaces, social media mining, IoT, AI, Big Data, technology tools in urban research methodologies, network security and privacy, etc.


Theme 8: Public Spaces and Socio-Economic Challenges

This theme pursues to provide new insights related to different types of socio-economic challenges with which public spaces – whether planned or unplanned related to their distinct contexts – are dealing. It also seeks to find out why these challenges arise and how they can be addressed.

The reason for some public spaces qualified as welcoming, inclusive, vibrant, meaningful, safe, comfortable, pleasurable, and positive, and some not, could be traced back to their socio-economic challenges. Citizens', planners', and states' perspectives towards public spaces and dominant socio-cultural, psychological, political, and historical backgrounds could also beget these challenges.

This theme invites papers that concentrate on living the lives of public space users, studying their lived experiences, understanding citizens', planners,'" designers," and policy makers' perspectives toward a welcoming and vibrant public space and compares various experiences from different perspectives contexts. Papers with an outlook on political economy and public space will be entirely compatible with this theme. Manuscripts other than what has been mentioned above but still related to theme 8 are also welcomed.


Theme 9: Public Spaces and Urban Mobility

This theme pursues to provide new insights related to the relationship between public space and mobility. Mobility patterns and the use of public space are intimately intertwined and are two driving forces in transforming contemporary cities.

The debate on the relationship between the concepts of public space and mobility is important for understanding how these concepts can complement each other. Take soft mobility as an example; how can soft mobility (i.e. cycling, walking, scootering, etc.) change the way we experience public spaces? And how does the physical configuration of public spaces affect soft mobility? On the one hand, we need to shift our ontological understanding of public space from a fixed and bounded phenomenon to a more dynamic and fluid one, this also requires alternative epistemological and methodological assumptions for public space research. On the other hand, we should consider the fact that different forms of mobility play a role in creating engaging public spaces and determining their quality of life.

This panel invites papers which concentrate on re-establishing the relationship between urban mobility and public space, understanding mobile experiences of public spaces, addressing the contemporary challenges at the intersection of urban mobility and public space from different geographical contexts, and developing methodological toolkits that engage with different approaches. Manuscripts other than what has been mentioned above but still related to theme 9, are also welcomed.


Theme 10: Public Space and Urban Tourism

This theme pursues to provide new insights into the relationship between public space and urban tourism development. Urban public spaces are an integral part of cities that can enhance cities' image, and thus, are a significant part of larger processes of tourism and leisure economy.

Throughout recent decades, many cities ranging in scale have faced intense competition to position themselves as tourist destinations. A large part of the literature has analyzed the role of events and iconic buildings in the promotion of urban tourism. However, the relationship between public spaces -that accommodate and connect such activities and buildings-  and urban tourism is not adequately recognized. This issue necessitates significant consideration and calls for a debate on public spaces and urban tourism to see how public spaces can contribute to urban tourism and how urban tourism can potentially enhance or decrease the quality of public spaces.

This theme invites papers that concentrate on the relationship between public spaces and different types of urban tourism in various geographical contexts. This issue could be approached from different perspectives ranging from identifying underlying forces and processes of the development of urban spaces as tourist destinations to the spatial configuration of urban spaces, tourists’ experiences in public spaces, and challenges raised by urban tourism in public spaces. It should be noted that manuscripts other than what has been mentioned above but still related to theme 10, are also welcomed.


Special Theme 11: Public Space and Pandemics

The significant outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic as a "wicked problem", unpredictable and complicated, has recently challenged the urban health system seriously and the vulnerability of the urban system, including public spaces, proved that these spaces should be prepared to respond suitably to this type of urban crisis.

In accordance with hygiene protocols taken to deal with the pandemic in public spaces, attention to qualities and requirements of these spaces has increased more than ever before. The post-pandemic configuration of public spaces, namely streets, sidewalks, squares, shopping malls and public transportation stations requires certain focus, in order to limit physical contact and congestion. Key features of built environment including physical morphology, density, land use, destination locations and accessibility, as well as quality of infrastructure and supported services do require to be redesigned and managed in a new perspective.

FUPS2021 welcomes manuscripts addressing the following topics in this theme: Identifying the effects of the pandemic on different dimensions of public spaces, providing principles to achieve resilient public spaces, explaining the dialectical relationship between citizens' behavior and public spaces during the epidemic and answering how to control and manage public spaces of different scales. Manuscripts regarding other areas of interest but still related to theme 11 are also welcomed.