Considering socio-spatial cohesion a primary factor for the sustainable and resilient development of cities, this paper explores the implications of the changing nature of relationality networks in our advanced digital age. It focuses on problems caused by growing urban fragmentation, polarisation, and inequality, as well as opportunities emerging from expanding diversity, complexity, and networkability. By acknowledging the effects of the pervasion of digitally augmented networking processes, it explores the spatial production of key common urban assets in contested central urban spaces.
The working hypothesis is that a revised approach to the interpretation of urban commons – particularly public space – as a premier collective asset with “more-than-spatial” properties grounded in their performative nature and transductive relationality, enhances the contribution of the disciplines of architecture and urbanism to the sustainable development of cities. This approach would provide a better understanding of the characteristics of the civic infrastructure needed to support relationality and collaboration, and illuminate the identification of new pathways to address problems caused by a growing urban socio-spatial fragmentation, deprivation and alienation.
For the analysis of such associations, a theoretical framework inspired by the notion of the right to the city is proposed, and a multidimensional socio-spatial perspective that identifies key mechanisms triggering public engagement is delineated. A comparative urbanism framework, informed by direct hands-on experience in Asian and Australasian contexts, is used to provide empirical grounding and validate the theoretical construct. Evidence is gained form case-studies of recent conspicuous urban transformation processes with situated high impact on material, social, cultural and emotional spheres. Discussion and conclusion contribute to the understanding of the socio-spatial impact of radical on-going changes in the role and function of the public sphere and call for an important redefinition of the approach to urban commons towards a resilient and sustainable urbanism.