WIT Press

Quality of public spaces and sustainable urban development: success and failures in fighting social exclusion


Free (open access)


Volume 12 (2017), Issue 4



Page Range

829 - 838

Paper DOI



WIT Press




Sustainable Urban Development embeds the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic. The European Commission position on Sustainable Urban Development reflects this concept, recommending an integrated approach paying attention to several intertwined factors, including the quality of public spaces. In European cities, poverty issues and exclusion are particularly acute. Inclusive growth is one of the main drivers of the Europe 2020 strategy, thus, it is expected that actions for fighting social exclusion are significant in deprived urban areas. However, in the EC approach still policies for social inclusion tend to remain relegated to the socio-economic sphere, with a weak link to the physical element as specific matter of concern. This paper aims at discussing the role played by the spatial quality of public spaces in supporting social integration, by focussing on a case study in Italy. More in details, the paper discusses the effects of public policies undertaken in the 1990s by the City of Reggio Calabria to reduce poverty for the Roma people, by displacing those inhabiting squalid and unhealthy camps to council housing in two neighbourhoods with a different quality of public spaces. In one area the displacement happened successfully, in the other, social issues plague the community. The paper aims at investigating the influence of the quality of public spaces on the displacement out- comes. The research methodology is mainly qualitative and is based on field work complemented by photo survey and interviews. The paper suggests that the spatial quality of the public spaces might have contributed to exacerbate social conflict and detachment in the unsuccessful case. It is therefore recommended to incorporate a significant component on the public space inclusive design in any socio- economic intervention aimed at overcoming social exclusion.


quality of public spaces, social exclusion, sustainable urban development