WIT Press

Place identity and sustainable urban regeneration: public space in Canberra city centre


Free (open access)


Volume 12 (2017), Issue 4



Page Range

734 - 743

Paper DOI



WIT Press




Urban regeneration projects often deal with activation of public space and pedestrian-oriented environments. That activation is based on idealisation of a good public space. It could be argued that our understanding of public space is deriving from the utopian ideas of democracy, ancient Greek agora and Roman forum. When we think about public space we usually imagine it as urban open space, accessible to all citizens, with ideal enclosed form of plaza of a particular size and scale, which welcomes everybody and demonstrates ultimate level of urbanity.

This paper uses the example of Garema Place in Canberra to discuss the interdependence of public space and place identity and their role in the regeneration of Canberra City Centre. Canberra is a planned city, with dominantly low density, dispersed town-centres, and nature as main element of its identity. The notion of public space and urban life differs from utopian ideas of agora and forum. The main character of Garema Place is noted within the nature. Yet the process of regeneration of Canberra city centre has been attempted within number of artistic and other public events, bringing people to the public space. The efforts to create a notion of plaza have not done much in generating the process of revitalisation. Garema still remains mainly vacant with low levels of street activities.

Because of different understanding of public space and place identity in Canberra, the paper hypothesises the need for a different kind of regeneration scenario. The discussion is drawn from an analysis of the character of Garema Place and history of public events in recent years in relation to the data of vacancy of built environment and everyday activities. The conclusion argues for importance of the place identity in the process of regeneration for more sustainable future of Canberra and its city centre.


place identity, public space, urban regeneration