|dc.description.abstract||The starting point for the observations made in the monograph The Social Importance of
Urban Public Spaces is the claim that if one wants to speak of the city these days as something
more than just an administrative, demographic and economic structure, it is necessary to provide
public spaces in which the denizens of the city could experience interaction both with other people
as well as with the urban space itself. The way in which the inhabitants of the city interact with
and confront the urban public spaces becomes, therefore, a singularly interesting research topic. It
is, in fact, a multifaceted process, closely connected with both the everyday functioning in those
spaces as well as the reflection upon their significance for the city or their role in creating the
urban and subjective identity. The aforementioned phenomena are, in turn, connected with the
varying manners of experiencing and defining the public space.
The experience of the urban public space constitutes the primary research topic. In order to
conduct the analysis of that experience, the author assumed the culturalist perspective, traditional
for social sciences, which assumes the analysis of the social reality from the perspective of an
individual. In light of that, the urban public space has been defined as an area in the city which
is accessible, appealing, facilitating contact with other users of the city, aesthetic, and one which
invites the people to meet, act and feel safe.
The research findings analysed in this monograph come from 2012, when the preliminary research
was conducted in three cities in the Upper Silesia: Jastrzębie-Zdrój, Tychy, and Żory. In each of those
cities, the research sample averaged over 300 respondents. Overall, 982 people were asked to take part
in the research conducted with the help of a questionnaire. In the monograph, the author compares
those results with earlier results of research conducted in Katowice and Gliwice by the author himself,
or with cooperation with other researchers. The use of that data, alongside the most recent research
findings, allows to come to more general conclusions which go beyond the scope of case studies.
The collected data allowed to formulate several conclusions regarding the social experience
of urban public spaces. It is possible to enumerate in each city a number of spaces which are
considered by the inhabitants to be good public spaces. Those usually entail marketplaces or other
squares located in the city centre, as well as attractive recreational spaces and parks.
From the perspective of the inhabitants of the cities and the users of public spaces, the most
important feature of such spaces is their multifunctionality, which allows their users to conduct
various activities. This, in turn, epitomises the importance of marketplaces, squares and parks. The latter are, in turn, particularly important for the recreational activities conducted within the
urban public spaces, as they constitute important locations in which people decide to spend their
leisure time. Thus, both parks and other urban public spaces remain in direct competition with
people’s homes as well as other places located outside of the city boundaries.
Even though the research did not point to any elements which could be classified as “the
fear of the urban space,” the inhabitants of the cities in question are charaterised by significant
social passivity. Over 30% of respondents do not participate in freely available events which take
place in urban public spaces. The only events which manage to attract larger percentages of the
city inhabitants are fairs, free concerts and religious events. Social, political or civil activities do
not constitute an important way of interacting with the urban space.
On the basis of the theory of spatial value, a claim has been made that city centres, even in
those cities in which those centres are either lacking or difficult to establish, evoke for the most
part more positive associations than shopping malls, which, for the majority of respondents, are
bland and described usually in terms of shopping arrangements. Therefore, echoing the concept
of spatial value, coined by Florian Znaniecki, and the division of values, coined by Aleksander
Wallis, it would be possible to consider city centres to possess existential spatial values, while
shopping malls posses only functional spatial values.
Such spaces influence the identity of the subjects, to a certain degree, particularly that structure
of it which could be called after Peter Weichhart individual spatial identity. Despite a high
level of identification with the city and its inhabitants, there exists only a minority of the city
inhabitants which declare that they do posses a space which would strengthen their relationship
with the city, i.e. facilitate the creation of individual spatial identity.
On the basis of the research findings presented in this monograph, it would be possible to
differentiate between six social roles of urban public spaces: functional, interactive, symbolic,
axiological, identical and civic. Their significance in contemporary cities varies on a case by case
basis. From the perspective of the city inhabitants, the functional role remains the most important,
while the civic role is considered the least important.||pl_PL|