Urban open spaces in historical perspective: A transdisciplinary typology and analysis

Benjamin Stanley, Barbara Stark, Katrina Johnston, Michael Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Urban open space provides a unique conduit for the sociospatial study of urban history. We propose seven categories to help scholars historically situate and analyze urban open spaces: food production areas, parks and gardens, recreational space, plazas, streets, transport facilities, and incidental space. We use these categories, and the contrast between grey and green space, to compare examples from archaeological, historical, and recent times across a broad geographical range. Top-down and bottom-up actions dialectically intersect in the establishment, use, and reproduction of urban open space, and many open spaces prove to be particularly flexible in serving the general population. These findings can inform comparative urban analysis, and they help contextualize current debates concerning the socioeconomic, political, and urban ecological functions of open and public spaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1117
Number of pages29
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


  • comparative urbanism
  • open space
  • public space
  • urban history
  • urban morphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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