Kite beach
Image Credit: GulF News Archive

The hustle and bustle of public spaces naturally make visitors gravitate towards these city heartbeats. Public spaces, elaborated in more glorious detail, are essentially communal areas designed with distinctive character and a host of multi-use amenities. They could be represented in diverse aspects, ranging from civic buildings and squares, to marketplaces or public parks.

Many cities are thriving with attractive public spaces — each undeniably unique — with enterprising entertainment, retail, and dining offerings for visitors. In many cases, astute urban planners have chosen underutilised areas and reimagined them into thriving public hubs within cities, delivering enormous benefits to communities and local economies.

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is a captivating haven where technology drives droves of sustainability feats and innovations. This breathtaking garden complex showcases a bouquet of stunning vertical gardens, gorgeous flower exhibitions, and a mesmerising ‘Supertree’ grove, creating an unforgettable experience for horticultural enthusiasts.

In Tokyo, the Roppongi Hills development project is a vibrant district that seamlessly blends the cultural richness of Japan with contemporary luxe. Nestled in the heart of the city, this iconic urban hub boasts a dazzling collection of skyscrapers, luxurious residences, trendy shopping boutiques, landscaped green spaces, and a flourishing arts and entertainment scene.

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Visitors can immerse in the richness of Japan’s culture through a host of prestigious art galleries, museums, and theatres. For those looking to experience Tokyo’s urban elegance, Roppongi Hills offers locals and visitors a unique destination that mesmerises them with cosmopolitan allure, cultural experiences, and architectural marvels.

The UAE is renowned for its advanced approach to urban planning, boasting portfolios of exceptional public spaces dotted across its cities. One prominent example is the Corniche in Abu Dhabi, a scenic waterfront promenade with gorgeous views of the gulf and a plethora of recreational offerings and manicured parks. This public space provides a wonderful retreat for socialising, relaxing, and enjoying outdoor activities.

Outdoor recreational activities

Another remarkable public space is Kite Beach in Dubai, where powdery sands meet azure-shaded waters. This lively waterfront destination attracts people who are keen on outdoor recreational activities, such as kite surfing, paddle boarding, skating, running, and playing volleyball.

Families can also enjoy a lending library, kids’ water park, outdoor gym, adventure park, and the many food trucks dotted along the coastline. In nearby Sharjah, the Al Qasba and Al Majaz Waterfront act as dynamic public spaces for recreational and cultural activities, with a fantastic calendar of activities luring visitors again and again.

These examples represent the UAE’s commitment to creating public spaces that deliver wonderful avenues for leisure, social interaction, and a greater sense of well-being.

Indeed, cities can expect numerous benefits from building public spaces for people, businesses, and local economies. Public spaces offer individuals the chance to connect, engage, and cultivate social bonds, nurturing a profound feeling of community and inclusiveness that strengthens the fabric of society.

Moreover, public spaces — and especially green spaces — are designed for walkability, physical activity, and outdoor recreation — which, in turn, can contribute to enhanced mental and physical well-being. At the same time, green spaces play a key part in promoting environmental sustainability by enhancing air quality, mitigating the urban heat island effect, promoting sustainable transportation, and allowing animals and plants to thrive in their natural habitats.

Catering to all ages

The juxtaposition of the creative sectors can serve as meeting points for individuals to appreciate the arts, by immersing in the local heritage and contemporary cultural expressions. Such venues are also wonderful agents that bring people together to celebrate shared interests via the hosting of a wide range of educational activities, exhibitions, and workshops that cater to individuals of all ages.

On the other hand, vibrant public spaces act as magnets that draw visitors, boosting local tourism and economic activity for local establishments, including restaurants, cafés, and retail shops. In many modern public spaces, innovation hubs provide a conducive environment for networking, collaboration, and the exchange of ideas among entrepreneurs and innovators who can conceptualise breakthrough solutions.

Urban planners can also expect well-designed public spaces to revitalise areas and, in turn, attract investments, create job opportunities, increase property values, and elevate a city’s standing in livability indices. These multifaceted benefits highlight the importance of public spaces in creating inclusive, vibrant, and thriving urban landscapes.

That said, urban planners should consider public spaces as vital components in urban planning strategies — making them as widely available as possible within pockets of districts across cities. Projects should be well-designed with the engagement of prominent architects and designers.

During the design process, it would be advantageous to get feedback from local communities to ensure their needs are met. Public spaces should also include attractive features, such as recreation, residential, retail, and entertainment offerings.

Accessibility via sustainable transport systems is an important facet to be considered. Furthermore, sustainability should be a focus, with eco-friendly features integrated into designs, such as public parks, gardens, jogging and cycling tracks, children’s playgrounds, and outdoor gyms.

Vitally, city governments should partner with private developers by offering a suite of incentives in order to leverage their financial resources and technical expertise.

Indeed, public spaces have gained recognition for their exceptional designs, holistic amenities, and their roles as vibrant urban hubs. They emphasise the importance of thoughtfully designed and inclusive spaces in cities, enriching overall urban experiences and contributing to the overall livability and appeal of urban areas.

Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and literature