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Staging city events in public spaces: an urban design perspective

Andrew Smith (School of Architecture and Cities, University of Westminster, London, UK)
Goran Vodicka (Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)
Alba Colombo (Arts and Humanities, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain)
Kristina N. Lindstrom (University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden)
David McGillivray (Centre for Culture, Sport and Events, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK)
Bernadette Quinn (Technical University Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

International Journal of Event and Festival Management

ISSN: 1758-2954

Article publication date: 1 June 2021

Issue publication date: 8 June 2021




There are two main aims of this conceptual paper. The first is to explore the issues associated with staging events in public spaces, and to produce a typology of different event spaces. The second is to explore if and how events should be designed into parks, streets and squares and whether this might reduce some of the negative impacts and associated user conflicts.


The paper analyses the history, drivers and effects of using public spaces as venues and examines the reciprocal relationships between events and the spaces that host them. To explain the range and dynamics of contemporary events, a typology of event spaces is developed. This typology highlights nine different types of event spaces which are differentiated by the level of public accessibility (free entry, sometimes free, paid entry), and the mobility of event audiences (static, limited mobility, mobile). Using this typology, the paper discusses ways that public spaces might be adapted to make them better suited to staging events. This discussion is illustrated by a range of examples.


The paper finds that it makes practical sense to adapt some urban public spaces to make them better equipped as venues, but designing in events presents new issues and does not necessarily resolve many of the problems associated with staging events. Disputes over events are inevitable and constituent features of public spaces.


This paper makes an original contribution by developing a new classification of event spaces and by synthesising ideas from urban design with ideas from the events literature.



This work was supported by HERA Public Spaces through the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme under grant agreement 769478.


Smith, A., Vodicka, G., Colombo, A., Lindstrom, K.N., McGillivray, D. and Quinn, B. (2021), "Staging city events in public spaces: an urban design perspective", International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 224-239.



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