"Urban public space is one of the hallmarks of the city, of city life, and urban culture. For these reasons hybrid forms of public space, the so called second public space, are interesting insofar they don't pose a subversion of the first public space." (Borret, beleidsnota 2006-2011, p.39)
The former Antwerp City Architect, Kristiaan Borret, draws attention to the qualities of 'second' public space, such as arcades, passages, inner courtyards and public interior spaces. At the same time, he is hesitant about the desirability of 'second' public spaces, because they may damage the quality of the so called 'first' public space: the actual streets, parks and squares. This critical attitude towards new types of public space is apparent in the narratives of profound loss (Sorkin 1992; Koolhaas 2002; De Cauter 2004).
On the other hand, 'second' public spaces may serve as a meeting place for groups who do otherwise not find their own place in the main streets and squares. Manual de Solá Morales (1992) was probably the first to stress the importance of these new forms of public space as stimulators of everyday life in the contemporary European city. Ali Mandanipour argues that in the European city with its expansive population and increasing social and cultural complexity, the creation of inclusive public interiors may offer a solution for the threatening social fragmentation (2010). However, the design of qualitative public interiors should be durable through time.
So far, especially the 'first' public space was at the center of substantial research (Meyer, a.o. 2009; Van Gassen 2003) in the scholarly field of urban design and urbanism. Also different types of specific public interiors, such as shopping malls (Crawford 1992, Bittencourt, 2013) have been investigated thoroughly in the field of architecture and interior design. However an interdisciplinary approach on the subject of public interiors is lacking.
This study aims to bridge the disciplinary boundaries and to search for a communal framework to design public interiors in a more holistic way. The research question is as follows: How can we design durable, qualitative public interiors or 'second' public spaces, which form an integrated part of a network with the 'first' public space? In order to design such spaces, we will develop design principles that are based on theories of public space and urban development, as well as theories of interior architecture, and are tested in case studies.