The Adaptation of Historical Squares Is Inevitable But Why Should You Consider a Participatory Approach?

by Participation Factory

The extreme heat of recent years has been omnipresent, but in the concrete jungles of cities, the issue is even more burning. Large square areas in particular are a problem that deserves attention. Revitalising squares and involving citizens through participation can be key factors in finding sustainable solutions. 

Squares play an essential role in the urban and socio-cultural context of cities. In the past, they have served as a meeting place for citizens and fulfilled a social and cultural purpose. Squares were places for the exchange of goods, which had a positive impact on the development of the local economy. Since many squares were associated with the seat of important authorities and institutions, they are perceived as a symbol of power and authority. All this reinforced their role as a central place in the city.

Historical squares carry the legacy of the times, but they still have to respond to the needs of today’s society. Adapting squares for the 21st century seems inevitable. So the question now arises how to adapt these places in a way that preserves their historic value, but at the same time reflects social, cultural, and climate changes. However, this seemingly simple task presents countless challenges. In the past, squares have been designed primarily to impress. They were meant to be places where people were not obstructed in their view or movement. Today, the Cultural Heritage Act of the Czech Republic seeks to preserve this characteristic by prohibiting anything that would disturb the view of iconic facades. Thus, for example, it prohibits the planting of much-needed trees.

Square revitalisation is a complex process, but not uncommon in larger cities. Squares and other public spaces across the country are being restored, improved or transformed to enhance their use value, aesthetics, safety, and general benefit to the local community. However, it is important to bear in mind that these are primarily spaces for citizens, and their involvement (i.e. participation) in the revitalisation process allows them to take an active part in decision-making and planning for urban development. This in its turn strengthens their relationship with the place where they are at home.

Above all, it is the local community, made up of diverse groups of inhabitants, which should determine what function the square should have and what changes should therefore be made. When citizens can influence the decision-making process, revitalisation will almost certainly be better received and will enjoy greater support from its future users. It is therefore necessary for citizen participation to be incorporated early in the planning phase and to be carried out during the whole process of revitalisation. This can be achieved through regular meetings, consultations, public discussions, workshops, and other interactive forms of engagement that allow citizens to actively contribute their views and comment on, for example, how to lower the overall temperature at the square. 

In conclusion, we would like to stress that the revitalisation of historical squares and citizen participation are linked to the challenges of heat and sustainable urban development. From our experience, the involvement of the general public is key to finding long-term effective solutions. Through participation, urban centres can become even more pleasant and functional spaces for all citizens, regardless of the climate. 

Is your city facing a revitalisation process? Or any other in which citizens should play a major role? Do not hesitate to contact us at