Published on July 19, 2023
In our ongoing series, we ask city-building leaders about their favourite places.
What makes a great public space?
Public spaces serve as the beating heart of communities. These places help foster a sense of belonging and connection, enhance wellbeing and contribute to environmental sustainability.
In our ongoing Essential Public Spaces series, we’re chatting with city-building leaders about the public spaces they feel connected to. This month, we spoke to Jen Angel, Evergreen’s CEO.
Here are Jen’s five essential public places.
“Having worked on the Halifax waterfront for many years, it’s a place that’s particularly near to my heart. It offers a variety of ways to experience authentic Halifax, hosts a number of community events, and is home to a mix of small and large local businesses. It’s increasingly a place with low barriers to participation and where diverse communities can see themselves and feel welcome to participate. And the best parts — the uninterrupted access to the water’s edge all along the boardwalk — are public.”
“I love main streets — they’re the best place to experience the energy and diversity of a community. The mix of people, experiences, businesses, new experiences alongside familiar faces and places. It’s all there. The magic happens in the mix. And Toronto stands out as a Canadian city with really vibrant main streets; it seems like there’s an interesting main street to explore in every neighbourhood — each one a little different. And there are a lot of neighbourhoods.”
“I love Italy for all sorts of reasons, but the piazzas of Florence are so special. Art contributes so much to public space. It provides an opportunity for everyone to engage in a learning experience that is unique; a time, a story, a feeling, an idea. It is provocative and it brings a human quality to the built environment. As contemporary urban art evolves well beyond the sculptures of the Renaissance period in Italian piazzas, the city as canvas is becoming something really interesting — a place for new people to engage and express their ideas in new ways. More art in cities everywhere, please.
“Public space is both about coming together with community — seeing old friends and meeting new ones — and equally about being able to explore quiet places, connect with our own thoughts and with nature. I’m drawn to the sea, especially the beaches of Nova Scotia. I’m there with my partner and my dogs year round. A wise friend used to say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. The Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in January takes commitment, a very warm coat and occasionally your back to the wind!”
“Toronto’s Ravines are simply extraordinary. I had no idea this substantial green space and rich ecosystem existed alongside Canada’s largest city and I am discovering many locals also don’t realize it’s here. As we densify cities to accommodate more people, green spaces like this are essential part of ensuring people can enjoy a high quality of life while living in a smaller urban footprint. Part of our work is to make places like this accessible, balancing the opportunity that such access to nature supports community health, connection and wellbeing with the need to protect this very special natural landscape. I think both are possible and getting it right is an opportunity to deepen our relationships with nature and each other in the city.”