Stadtforum#1 – public space is more than just a functional space

The starting signal for the public space planning process in St. Pölten sounded on Saturday, 17 November 2018, at the event venue Saal der Begegnung. Public space will be a key factor when it comes to winning the European Capital of Culture title, but it also plays an enormously important role in day-to-day life in the city. All of the approximately 50 attendees* of the public Stadtforum#1 agreed on that point. Participants* had been invited by the city of St. Pölten and the St. Pölten 2024 team together with the planning office Raumposition.

At the beginning, Mayor Matthias Stadler made it clear that public space must be more than just functional space with his welcoming words: "The public spaces of our city are places of encounter, places where St. Pölten residents meet, talk to each other and stay. This requires a high degree of quality, which ultimately benefits all areas of the city and from which the city benefits long after a possible Capital of Culture year."

The planning process that has now been started will be accompanied and carried out by the Raumposition office under the direction of Prof. Rudolf Scheuvens. The aim is to develop criteria for the spatial/functional qualities of the public space in St. Pölten, criteria for what is appropriate in each case, and criteria for user-related concerns. All of this is developed in dialogue with the administration and politics, with representatives of the economy, art/culture and the public. The result is a guiding concept for the public spaces, which formulates recommendations for action including prioritisations with regard to the Capital of Culture year and the longer-term perspective for further steps by the city of St. Pölten.

On Saturday, the focus of the citizens' event was on working together at five planning tables on different areas of action. In a workshop atmosphere in the meeting room or along city walks along selected routes, important challenges in the further development of these spaces were discussed, requirements named and located.

One group placed the access roads in the focus of the discussions. Although these usually show visitors* the first pictures of a city and these also assume outstanding functions in the overall urban context, the access roads are often given little importance in urban development. The group found that the southern connection of the city in particular would hold great potential for upgrading.

At another work table, the discourse about the most well-known and lively public space in the city stood at the centre: the Old Town. The different squares with their different characters are regarded as high quality in the city, which characterise the public space in historic St. Pölten. While the Rathausplatz is set as an event location in the city, the necessity of the redesign of the Domplatz is underlined. The participants* in this group are in favour of a square design that is open to use, allows for a variety of uses and is flexible. The square should be "space for all" and can be used well for cultural events, especially in the context of a Capital of Culture.

In order to make the city centre as a whole perceptible beyond the old town, strong connections between the individual districts are needed. The Promenadenring plays a key role here, as the participants* of another work table were able to explore on site as part of a city walk. It not only surrounds the old town and, as an independent space, has the potential to become a high-quality meeting place; it is also responsible for the historic entrances to the city and important cross-connections, which need to be strengthened and their attractiveness increased.

The participants* of the working table on the subject of government districts and cultural districts also used the time to test this quarter and its accessibility directly on site. It became clear that orientation between the old town and the cultural district is difficult - especially for people unfamiliar with the area - even though they are within walking distance of each other. The streets and squares in the quarter itself were deserted despite the sunny autumn weather. How urban life can be stimulated here and how the district can contribute to connecting the old town with the Traisen nature reserve in an attractive way are two essential questions that must be asked of the public space there.

At the fifth work table, all topics could be discussed that make up the public space but cannot be assigned to a specific location. The street space must fulfil many functions and satisfy many different participants*. Public spaces can then become meeting spaces, if they are also used by people. 

Stadtforum#1 © C. Fürthner

Stadtforum#1 © C. Fürthner

Stadtforum#1 © C. Fürthner

Stadtforum#1 © C. Fürthner

Stadtforum#1 © C. Fürthner

Stadtforum#1 © C. Fürthner

Stadtforum#1 © C. Fürthner

Stadtforum #1 – public space

Saturday, 17 November 2018
2 pm

Saal der Begegnung
Gewerkschaftsplatz 2
3100 St. Pölten 

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