Reports and Dissertations
The quest of publicness: how public are public spaces? The particularity of Damascus' old city
This study presents the assessment of publicness in urban design by addressing how public are public spaces in the old city of Damascus, Syria. In the late twentieth century, the ancient city of Damascus was labeled as world heritage, and its urban fabric was protected by UNESCO. The traditional old city is the subject of many rehabilitations and renovation projects by local public authorities and many international NGOs. Mainly due to the civil conflict ongoing in Syria. Two overlapping frameworks were suggested to approach the publicness in the old city of Damascus. The first one addressed identifying public spaces as part of the urban designs in the old city, using a selection of criteria sited over three dimensions of urban designs theory. The first one is the morphological dimension, concerning the spatial structure of urban spaces, containing three criteria: layout, landscape, and scale. The second one is the social dimension, tackling the convoluted relationships between users and spaces; this dimension´s criteria encompass identity, security, and use. The last dimension is functional, which addresses the day-to-day function of the space´s constituent elements, presented in the selected criteria of access and control. The second framework assesses the level of publicness by applying chosen publicness indicators on targeted public spaces. The indicators are divaricated from three publicness dimensions of ownership, management, and accessibility. The ownership indicators include property and functions. The management dimension indicators include the type of management, presence of control, physical maintenance, and provision of facilities. While the accessibility dimension has three indicators: centrality and connections, visual permeability, and thresholds and gateways. The structure and narrative of Damascus’s old city showed a complex system of public spaces formed by a combination of Mediterranean cities’ public spaces and Arab-Islamic cities´ urbanism. Maintaining privacy and security was the main motive behind adopting the current spaces hierarchy in the traditional old city. Out of the diverse range of public spaces in the old city of Damascus, five of them were chosen for the publicness assessment, which includes: The main streets, the Harat, the secondary streets, the Cul-de-sacs, and the house´s courtyards. Each of these spaces´ publicness was assessed by applying the aforementioned publicness indicators, using the analyzed information and graphical data provided for this study. As a result of this assessment, the public spaces of Damascus´s old city vary in the level of publicness; they mirror the gradual transition from public to private through its level of publicness. This corresponds to the exploration journey from the city´s public areas outside the wall into its street network to reach the private areas of the houses. In the end, the assessment of public spaces revealed that each public space has its own particular publicness qualities, which may affect its level of publicness. Some spaces may have the same generic level of publicness, whether it is public, semi-public, semi-private, or private. Still, one of them will be more public than the other. The publicness of any public space will remain distinct from other spaces´ publicness, which reflects the particularity of the old city of Damascus public spaces.
Jorge Correia Marta Labastida Juan
Cidade e Território
Publicness Damascus old city Public spaces Urban Designs Arab-Islamic cities