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UrbSpace– enhancing the attractiveness and quality of the urban environment


Some 75 % of the population of the Central Europe region lives in urban areas, a figure which is likely to continue to grow. Towns and cities are perceived as engines of regional development, offering a broad range of services and economic and cultural opportunities. However, urban concentrations of population bring a number of problems. The spread of urbanisation removes previously clear boundaries between settlement and surrounding landscape, putting great pressure on the natural landscape setting. In many urban areas, the historic core is surrounded by physically separated new suburbs, which are nevertheless functionally linked to the urban centre, leading to growth in road traffic resulting in the loss of biodiversity and fragmentation of the natural environment.

In this context open spaces play a vital role. They have a direct influence on how local people and visitors perceive urban areas, how do they identify their self with them and how well social life is functioning. Urban spaces also influence economic prosperity. Their environmental importance is underlined by their potential to mitigate adverse effects of climate change, which are likely to be especially marked in urban areas. Urban development is not only about planning buildings and activities, but also about creating places having a positive impact on their surroundings. The design of high quality urban spaces, involving inputs from community groups, is also an increasingly important aspect of the planning process. Such places help to define the public life of a village or town by strengthening the „local spirit“.

Much attention has been devoted to such issues in larger towns and cities, however while 75% of the Central Europe Region population is urban, only just more than 22% live in cities of more than 200,000 inhabitants, yet little consideration has been given to this fact in the context of the planning, design and management of urban open space. The principle focus of this project is therefore on the role and management of such spaces in smaller urban and suburban areas. In this way the project will support the sustainable polycentric urban development which is characteristic of the region. It will take into consideration all aspects of urban open space (environmental, social, economic), and its improvement in terms of design quality, accessibility and functionality as a central contribution to the quality and viability of the urban environment while increasing of capacities in the partner countries.

Project Objectives and Activities

The Project will significantly contribute to the achievement of the Central Programme Priority 4: Enhancing Competitiveness and Attractiveness of Cities and Regions. The focus on approaches is to improve environmental quality of smaller urban centres and suburban areas, will contribute significantly to strengthening territorial cohesion by supporting polycentric structures, which require a mix of larger and smaller urban areas to operate. Historically and in policy terms the focus of urban open space planning design has been on large towns and cities. It is not safe to assume that the approaches developed here can be simply transferred to smaller settlements. In smaller towns, for example, the relative closeness of the public to the municipal authorities also means that the role of the public in the design of urban spaces takes on greater significance. The project will therefore take a strategic approach to the promotion of active and informed involvement of a range of stakeholders – local authorities, urban planning experts and local businesses – in the process of reshaping and revitalization of urban open spaces important for public life of communities from an early stage in the process. In this way UrbSpace will also address the prevention of sociopathogenic phenomenon and criminality issues in urban open spaces. These objectives will be achieved by realisation of the following activities:

  • state of art analyses in the participating countries of the principles of sustainable urban development and planning and benchmarking
  • definition of relevant criteria and principles for public space design in smaller urban areas with regard to all aspects of sustainable development (environmental, social and economic)
  • development of a joint strategies and tools for sustainable urban spaces involving relevant stakeholders to improve the planning process with respect to accessibility for all
  • development and realisation of pilot actions in different Central Space urban areas –designed and worked out through a participatory process by communities
  • ensuring a sound scientific approach and output quality through an international Scientific and Technical Committee
  • dissemination of results according to the project Communication Plan throughout the project lifetime at different levels (from local to European) and targeting different actors

The partnership of the project comprises a variety of multi–sectoral organizations (local and regional authorities, universities, NGOs etc.) ensuring a multi-actor approach. The complexity of the polycentricism and urban spaces issues needs to be solved through transnational cooperation and the exchange of experiences, benchmarking and formulating common strategies. The pilot actions in different Central target areas (urban, coastal and cross border) will examine the implementation of the joint strategy for sustainable urban spaces.

Official website of the project:

Duties for the Transport and Spatial Planning Institute

As a research association belonging to the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt the Transport and Spatial Planning Institute is looking after accessibility for all to urban spaces and public transpor­tation with a special view on elderly and disabled citizens since many years. For that reason in the UrbSpace-Project the Transport and Spatial Planning Institute is responsible for this part of the social aspects of accessibility in terms of the projects from the other partners and especially with reference to the local partner city Erfurt.

For the overall project it would be very important to consider that accessibility to urban spaces is not only seen as permitting access to a certain area but also to guarantee that all citizens could benefit from the actions. This means that all planning has to take care that it is designed for all, so that for example also children, pregnant woman, elderly persons and people with disabilities are able to participate after implementation. The Transport and Spatial Planning Institute is paying attention to transfer the knowledge of design for all to the project partners by:

  • organising conferences belonging to the issues “access for all to the city centres” and “access for all to green public spaces”
  • development of a working paper aiming on the accessibility aspects of public spaces
  • benchmarking the planned UrbSpace-Projects under the view of the design for all approach

Aside the Transport and Spatial Planning Institute will arrange a pilot action together with the local partner city of Erfurt and the “round table barrier-free Erfurt”, which is a non-profit organisation of the city of Erfurt. The aim of this project part is to develop the inner city of Erfurt to an accessible urban space for everybody, including the elderly and the disabled persons.

joint strategy

Action 4.1.11 - Accessibility plan for Erfurt

Methodology Plan for good planning and designing of urban open spaces


FHE, Nicolaus
Das Projektteam auf einem städtischen Freiraum in Bratislava
Das Projektteam auf einem städtischen Freiraum in Bratislava
This project is implemented through the CENTRAL EUROPE Programme cofinanced by the ERDF.

© 2007-2015



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