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Experts Andrés Di Masso and Sergi Valera analyse the social influence of urban planning as part of COLOR Week Urban social psychology specialists reviewed the relationship established between the public space and the wellbeing of the people using it https://www.rubi.cat/en/current/news/experts-andres-di-masso-and-sergi-valera-analyse-the-social-influence-of-urban-planning-as-part-of-color-week/@@images/image/preview

Experts Andrés Di Masso and Sergi Valera analyse the social influence of urban planning as part of COLOR Week

Urban social psychology specialists reviewed the relationship established between the public space and the wellbeing of the people using it
Andrés Di Masso during the conference, which was online.
Andrés Di Masso during the conference, which was online

Within the programming for COLOR Week, the conference Psicologia social urbana (Urban Social Psychology) was held on Tuesday, given by professors Andrés Di Masso and Sergi Valera, doctors of Psychology at the University of Barcelona (UB) and specialists in social and environmental psychology. The experts tackled the indissoluble relationship between the public space and people’s wellbeing and, consequently, the great importance urban design has on the psychological experience.

‘The urban space is not only outside, but also what we carry inside us. That is why, when we touch on the city’s shared spaces, we are touching on something valuable for the people using them,’ stated Di Masso at the beginning of the conference. The professor pointed out that people have not traditionally been aware enough of how the public space influenced their wellbeing. A trend that changed unexpectedly during home confinement, when citizens started to see the public space as an outside shelter and felt the need to transfer their daily living to their balconies and terraces.

During the chat, they pointed out several characteristics that ensure that public spaces run well. As Di Masso summarised, ‘they are those that cover basic needs, which let people in a specific environment satisfy their desires and preferences, and also help to uphold fundamental rights’. Sergi Valera added the differentiation between sociopetal spaces, which bring people together, and sociofugal spaces, which discourage social interaction. In this regard, he explained: ‘Often what makes a space attractive is not only the design, but the meaning that people assign to it. However, there are design features that facilitate or prevent specific activities.’ To Valera, the success of a public space is defined by its diversity: ‘Like any ecosystem, there must be a certain level of complexity. A diverse space is where things happen and which creates powerful dynamics. This diversity must be for uses and users. If society is diverse, the public space should also be diverse.’

The two urban psychology specialists compiled some of the issues that end up influencing the acceptance of public spaces. For example, Di Masso explained that those places that add elements of mystery, incongruent with their surroundings, attract people because they encourage them to explore. He also believes that a good public space cannot be obtained if there is not some tolerance for urban disorder and some relinquishing of total control. He continued that cities must commit to inclusive urban design, which does not add further difficulties to vulnerable people and guarantees the right to the city for everyone.

The expert also said that there is no universal formula for making spaces attractive, since reality is complex. Di Masso gave examples by speaking of those places that most people do not visit because they may be fearful of them, but, owing to this, they become hubs of wellbeing for minority groups. The professor also referred to the other extreme, places that ‘die of success’ because they include features that are attractive to the mainstream and have a great intensity of uses that end up creating conflicts between people.

The conference by Di Masso and Valera also delved into other matters, such as the importance of citizen participation in designing public spaces, the relationship between urban planning and safety, and the role street art can have in producing feelings of belonging.