Existing city streets have the potential to become public spaces that promote human interaction.
Streets are the ultimate form of public space in this post corona reality. The existing idea of the street is that it creates a flow of movement, having the potential as a public space to encourage but also limit human interaction. The way we structure our streets needs to be adjusted to allow people the opportunity to easily discover one another, rather than avoid one another. Turning streets into public space corridors would drastically increase our chances to socialize.I specifically chose the site of my project, Steinergasse 1170, Vienna, Austria, because the people have already started using the street in the ways I have proposed in my submission. Steinergasse is a one way street with parking along both sides the entire length of the street. At one end it comes out on to Ottakringerstrasse, a main artery street for Vienna. It just so happens that the most visited club on the Balkanmeile sits on the corner of Steinergasse/Ottakringerstrasse.
On warm Friday nights there are hundreds of people gathering inside, outside and around this club, now called “Cafe Code”. On the other hand, on warm Saturday mornings people are using this street to connect over to the farmer’s market at Brunnenmarkt and Yppenplatz. You will find a different atmosphere during the week when children are funneling down this street to reach its other end, where a Gymnasium sits.
The sidewalks on this street do not function in their current state. The majority of the sidewalk on Steinergasse is less than one meter wide, which does not allow two people to walk side by side or cross paths going opposite directions. People purposely walk down the sidewalk that's empty immediately canceling any possibility for human interaction. These small sidewalks are also primarily made of cobblestone, which pushes fathers with strollers, ladies with rolling shopping bags and kids on Laufräder to wander down the middle of the street. The people have already started making the street their own, I simply want to further encourage its development and implement this idea to other similar streets.
Streets becoming a public space for people would create a bridge between the private and public realm. We are currently using streets to carry us from the privacy of our homes to public spaces. But if we make the journey on the street a part of the public experience, then the opportunities to create a more social society are awaiting us right on our doorsteps. Literally!