This week, a thousand city planners, transportation engineers, public health professionals, elected officials, community leaders, and professional walking and bicycling advocates are gathering in Vancouver for Placemaking Week. Championed by Project for Public Spaces, the week consists of a range of activities, centrally including the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference, Future of Places conference, Placemaking Leadership Forum and Vancouver Public Space Network 10 year party. While there is no shortage of business to attend to, sunny skies and warm weather are providing visitors with an extra incentive to visit Vancouver’s beaches. It may be their (somewhat) natural context, the hedonistic activities that they are known for, or location along the city’s urban periphery, but Vancouver’s beaches are often under-recognized as important public spaces. These beaches are hardly the only much loved public spaces that are overlooked however. Inspired by Placemaking Week and as a salute to Vancouver’s beaches, TH!NK by IBI is celebrating five unusual, overlooked or (once) illegal public spaces from around the world:
Islands Brygge Harbour Bath: In Copenhagen, residents and visitors can cool off with a dip in a public swimming pool in the city’s harbour. Formerly an area for heavy industry, the water (which is tested daily) is now clean enough to swim in – a testament to Copenhagen’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
Urban rock climbing in Stockholm: Not all public spaces are horizontal! Along the Danvikstull Canal in central Stockholm, climbers have free access to a 25 metre rock wall. It might not be the most accessible public space, but it’s certainly well used. Don’t look down!
Burnside Skate Park in Portland: In 1990, tired of rain and security guards shutting down their sessions, a group of skateboarders built a small, unsanctioned skate park under Burnside Bridge. 25 years later, the space is legendary in the skate community and a template for skate parks under bridges in cities around the world.
The Gum Wall: An “installation” that activates a space, Seattle’s Gum Wall is located in an alley near the famous Pike Place Market. It was cleaned in 2015, but visitors quickly began re-establishing the famous wall.
Eisbach River Surfing: In Munich, surfers can catch a natural wave without ever leaving the city. Once fiercely protected by locals, surfing on the river is now sanctioned by the city. Beginners beware though, while it may be open, it definitely isn’t easy!
There are many more unusual and well-loved public spaces out there. Share your favourites with us!