My experiences at the Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC) and on campus at Brandeis University have taught me about the importance of public spaces. If you read my first blog post, you know my role at the Main South CDC is centered around community organizing, which means I will be planning and coordinating free family-friendly activities in public spaces in the Main South neighborhood.
On the first day of my internship, Casey Starr, director of Community Initiatives at the Main South CDC, handed me a book called How to Turn a Place Around by Kathleen Madden. How to Turn a Place Around is a handbook about creating and improving public spaces with a chapter dedicated to explaining why these public spaces are important to cities. Reading this book moved me to reflect and appreciate the public spaces at Brandeis University.
Before I share the answer to why public spaces are important and break down the thought that goes into creating public spaces, I should define it. A public space is a place indoors or outdoors that is generally open and accessible to people of all backgrounds. When we think of a public space our minds tend to immediately go to parks or squares however, the definition informs us the extent to what qualifies as a public space is broad.
Public spaces unite the community. It is a gathering point for celebration through concerts and festivals. Celebration brings a sense of spirit and pride like no other in a community. Along with its collective uses, there are private reasons to enter a public space that are not limited to dog walking, jogging, biking, reading, picnics, and playing. It is multipurpose with an ability to simultaneously cater to the specific needs of many because not everyone has a quiet place to read, money for a gym membership, or a backyard for their children to play. Not to mention how different spaces carry different atmospheres. Parks carry a lively atmosphere while libraries carry a quiet atmosphere. Each space fills a unique role and purpose.
Students especially require multiple public spaces on campuses to accommodate for population size. Observing Brandeis University’s spaces, I realized it works to cover the demand for learning/study environments (Library and Shapiro Campus Center), green spaces (the Great Lawn and Chapel’s Field), and expressional spaces (Intercultural Center and Spingold Theater Center). Brandeis knows how essential each space is for its students, which is why it devotes resources to ensure comfort and safety.
Comfort and safety is what allows people to enjoy a public space. I will even go beyond that statement to say it is what draws people to public spaces. On Wednesday, July 10, the Main South CDC had its first concert of four at University Park. It was a great turnout that took lots of promotion and outreach. It is a beautiful, large park and the city recognizing this continues to devote resources to ensure comfort and safety so community members utilize it to its full potential. Coordinating events like the concert creates the lively atmosphere and improves the perception of the park in the eyes of the community.