Cities are of designed for entrance and exit, and as places to work. This is good for the commuter, but often not so good for city residents, who often report feeling awash in a sea of concrete and asphalt. Burden says that by starting with people, their public spaces, and the way they use them (or not), cities can be made much more of a contributor to residents’ health and mental comfort. See if you agree with her.

Discussion Answers:

  1. Burden started from the lessons she learned at a park developed by her stepfather, which was well used, peaceful and flexible. Who was her other influence?

    The city people around her made her feel welcomed and at peace.

  2. She says that spaces around public architecture are often used as a plinth for the buildings. What does she mean by this?

    There is nothing to water or maintain, and no undesirable people to worry about. People avoid places like these because there is no place to sit, and no welcoming greenery. It both looks and feels desolate.

  3. She says that open spaces are opportunities for commercial development, or the common good. Can you think of an example of this conflict from your own life?
  4. In the development of New York, she helped create a city which could fit a million new residents none of whom would have to own a car. What is important about this?

    By creating a city where people did not need to use cars, New York could make use of their transit system and develop a way to make that the main source of transportation. By doing so, they were able to welcome more residents.

  5. If Burden created new neighborhoods where people didn’t need cars, what did this mean about parks and other public spaces?

    Parks and other public spaces were able to expand. Burden created more spaces that people could easily access within a ten-minute walk or subway. Parking spots turned into places to sit and what used to be city traffic turned into pop-out café’s. She made these public spaces somewhere people wanted to be.

  6. “A city has to take the long view; the view for the common good.” Explain to someone your belief about the conflict of commercial interests and the common good. Has this changed as a result of what Burden says?

See Full Ted Talk: How Public Spaces Make Cities Work

How Public Spaces Make Cities Work


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