The overall living lab experience was very fruitful and rich with placemakers from all over the world, academics and practioners. The topics of discussion covered everything – every lecture, every panel, and even every side talk in the breaks introduced something new. The one thing that united all those people from all over the world is their passion towards public space, placemaking and innovation.
One of the things that I found most interesting in the living lab was the discussion on public space and the different urban challenges placemakers are facing all over the world. Most of my work in the MENA region focused on reclaiming the public space as one governed by the people not controlled and run by the government and the placemaking projects I worked on focused on achieving just that – empowering people to take control of their public spaces and to fight for their rights to the space, because public space in such contexts is more of a right that had to be fought for.
Considering the experiences of other fellow placemakers, in different contexts these fights over who has ownership of the public space seem to have become more subtle or they were resolved years ago. Now other problems are emerging such as inclusivity of the public space, improving its functionality and other issues like fostering innovation and strengthening social and community ties.
And although core problems can be sometimes different depending on the context there are still a lot of things in common. The challenges are universal when it comes to placemaking and transforming a space to a place that is truly inclusive; a place where the locals can feel connected and engaged, participation processes also proved to be challenging especially when the goal is to build an inclusive process.
It’s easy to say that working on public space has universal problems that require more living labs and more placemakers coming together to sit down, share knowledge, discuss and find solutions and more contextual problems that needs to be solved on a local level. More workshops that bring placemakers together can really be a gate towards having a true universal discussion about these challenges and starting to work on them collectively.