Public places are essential to the prosperity of sustainable cities. According to UN studies they promote income, investment and wealth creation; enhancing environmental sustainability, equity and social inclusion. Public places are “the banner of urban civility and our urban commons”.

The UN Habitat Global Public Spaces Toolkit claims that public spaces:

  • Are the physical web and support for the movement and the stationing of people and means of transport, from which the vitality of the city depends
  • Host market and accessible commercial activities in fixed premises, public venues and other services (collective and not, public and private), in which the socio- economic dimension of the city is always expressed
  • Offer precious opportunities for recreation, physical exercise and regeneration for all such as parks, gardens, public sports facilities
  • Help promote education and culture such as museums, public libraries
  • Are places of individual and collective memory, in which the identity of the people is mirrored and finds sustenance, growing in the knowledge that they are a community
  • Promote conviviality, encounter and freedom of expression
  • Are an integral and meaningful part of the urban architecture and landscape, with a determinant role in the overall image of the city

City Wayfinding can go a long way to promote and highlight the importance of public places. Study the graphics below to see how UN defined categories of public spaces are lovingly portrayed and promoted on well-known wayfinding maps:



In evaluating thousands of public spaces around the world, the UN Habitat Project for Public Spaces found that successful ones have four key qualities:

  • they are accessible;
  • people are engaged in activities;
  • the space is comfortable and has a good image;
  • it is a sociable place, one where people meet each other and take people when they come to visit;

What better than a good city wayfinding system to bring people together in these places?

*The following wayfinding systems are represented in the illustration: WalkNYC, Stockholm SL, Legible London, Interconnect West Midlands, Toronto TO360.




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