Public spaces are more crucial than ever before

At Hay Festival Cartagena, I’ll be in conversation with Peter Florence to talk about architecture today, with topics ranging from material innovation and sustainability to the role of the architect and the importance of public space.

For me, public spaces are more crucial than ever before.

In a world of societal, economic and political uncertainty, people want places where they can come together and to connect with each other.

We think that with the internet and social media we’re all more connected than ever before, but we’re not – in fact, we’re becoming more and more isolated from each other.

It’s significant that there is a rise in the number of music festivals and literary festivals, like Hay Festival Cartagena – places where large numbers of people come to share experiences and to be with others with shared interests.

In Lisbon, my architecture studio AL_A designed the roof of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), as an outdoor room and a new public square in the city. It has become a social place of intersections and conversations across thresholds, one that people can pass through or just be in; a place that visitors can use and program in whatever way they want. It gives them a new perspective as they look back towards the old city or out across the Tagus on the threshold between the city and the river.

On its opening day in October 2016, more than 80,000 people – over 14% of the population of Lisbon – visited MAAT. It was a testament to the attractive power of new public spaces, their place in the consciousness of a city, and the need for spaces that help us overcome the thresholds that could otherwise divide us.

Public spaces create countless opportunities to connect people of different nationalities and from different walks of life, with different ideas and different experiences.

It is why public spaces need to be at the heart of our cities and our institutions.

Because when you connect people, relationships are formed and ideas are exchanged – and that is what creates progress, the lifeblood of a city.

Amanda Levete will be part of the Hay Festival Cartagena 2019 on Saturday, February 2nd, in conversation with Peter Florence, at 17:00, Hotel Sofitel (Salón Santa Clara)