The project DEMOSSPACE targets the democratic deficits observed in the practice of new private governance of urban public space, and aims to contribute to inclusive urban development policies.

01 apr. 2016 - 31 mar. 2019

The Research Council of Norway, DEMOS programme

  • The compact city model has been the dominant strategy of urban development in Norway and Europe since the early 1990s. It typically creates a strong alliance between objectives of climate abatement and economic development, whereas adoption of the model has been shown to yield challenges, particularly connected to the quality of space, unequal distribution of assets, and citizen participation. High-profile projects aimed to increase urban attractiveness tend to exclude certain groups and activities due to the strategic target of well-educated and affluent groups. Furthermore, citizens’ involvement in urban development is generally limited to a mandatory minimum, due to lack of resources and political will. Thus, the broader interests of civil society are often underrepresented in urban planning and public space development. It is particularly the case in privately owned, developed and managed outdoor areas regulated as public spaces, a relatively new phenomenon in Norway. Our project addresses these challenges.

  • The primary objective of the project is to enhance the state of the art of research on democratic and inclusive urban public spaces by generating knowledge on how governance models and urban design can ensure their development. Hereto, we aim to contribute with cumulative research on democratic aspects of compact city development.

    In addition, the project aims:

    1.To identify factors facilitating and constraining democratic and inclusive public spaces in Norwegian cities, eventually contributing to new knowledge and evidence-basis for urban policies.

    2.To contribute to methodology by consolidating an interdisciplinary, international and comparative study, thus contributing to the international state of the art in comparative urban research and to new mehods in urban design.

    3.To improve public-private partnership models involved in the provision of public space by generating knowledge from in-depth studies.

  • To do so, the project studies how governance models and urban design can ensure inclusive and democratic public space. To address this objective, the project will identify the factors that constitute democratic and inclusive urban public spaces and how these factors can be enhanced or obstructed by institutional settings, planning processes, urban design, and management.

    Initially, we identify central qualities of democratic public spaces, based on the deliberative democracy perspective and the capabilities perspective. On this basis, we carry out case studies in which we investigate recent public space developments, identifying their democratic qualities and seeking the factors contributing to enhancement/ obstruction of these qualities. Thus, we focus on the development of public space, scrutinizing the institutional settings, planning procedures and processes, and on spaces in use, examining urban design, functional program, and spatial management practices involved. Finally, the project contributes with a synthesis aimed to enhance the research state of the art and to provide recommendations on how to enhance democratic qualities of urban public spaces, assisting the work of planners, practitioners and politicians. 

    The project has been developed in a cooperation with the Norwegian Institute of Urban and Regional Research and involves a number of national and international partners.


Eksterne deltakere

  • NIBR: Heidi Bergsli (co-project leader, researcher II), Gro Sandkjær Hanssen (researcher I), Hege Hofstad (researcher I), Stian Lid (researcher III)
  • Professor Matthew Carmona, University College London (UCL),
  • Associate Professor Bettina Lamm, Associate Professor Anne Tietjen Copenhagen University,
  • Professor Katarina Nylund, Assistant Professor Peter Parker, Malmö University,
  • Professor Don Mitchell, Uppsala University
  • Professor Inger-Marie Lid, VID vitenskapelige høgskole
  • City of Oslo (Oslo kommune Eiendoms- og Byfornyelsesetaten)