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Photo Essay: 20 of the World’s Best Public Spaces

Public spaces can be anything from a lush urban park to a subway station, but all of them offer a free place to enjoy the company of friends, family, and strangers.

French Quarter

Click Here to See 20 of the Top Public Spaces in the World

Every community needs a commons where people can gather as friends, neighbors, and citizens. This can be a grand public square, a humble Main Street, or a vacant lot with a few handmade benches where locals sit down for conversation. Or even a bridge, beach, or bus station, as the examples in the pictures show.

What’s important are the connections made among people, which can lead to wonderful things: friendships, love affairs, partnerships that flower into new ideas for businesses or community projects.

The Project for Public Spaces, a New York-based group that works around the world helping citizens boost the sense of community in their neighborhoods, compiled a comprehensive catalog of more than 600 of the best public spaces around the world. Here is a selection of some of the most inspiring, many of them in surprisingly humble locations, which can offer ideas about creating or improving a commons in your own town.

You can find out more—including practical information about which elements make these places succeed as commons—and nominate your own favorite public spaces at Project for Public Spaces’s Great Public Spaces Hall of Fame. You can peruse PPS’s Hall of Shame to learn what mistakes not to repeat from over 60 of the most disappointing public spaces around the world.


Jay Walljasper

Jay Walljasper, a YES! Magazine contributing editor and author of The Great Neighborhood Book and All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons, chronicles urban life for a variety of publications. He is also a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler, editor of OnTheCommons.org, a senior fellow of the Project for Public Spaces, and a contributor to Shareable.net, where this article originally appeared.

Photos by Kansas Sebastian, Paul VanDerWerf, Gavin White, Andre Kirchner, Judy Baxter, Chris Hill, Jason Jones, Peter Eimon, Dieter Zirnig, Phillip Capper, Steven Vance, el Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Robin Kanouse, Tony Hisgett, Lance McCord, Jim Moran, Shack Dwellers International, Derrick Story, Thomas Prenner, Daniel Roy.

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