ST 6 CENTRAL URBAN SQUARES MEDIATING UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN DIFFERENT INCOME CLASSES
ResumoThe recent worsened of the social inequalities with the global economic crises demands more research on how urban design proposals may facilitate unexpected encounters between different income classes. The present study aims to deeper our understanding on how the physical and spatial properties of central urban squares may support socialization between strangers that experience highly contrasting urban conditions in a daily basis. Such knowledge may benefit planning and urban design practices in different countries around the world, mostly those whose population has suffered from social and economic inequalities. To achieve this aim, this study explores the use of Liberdade Square, Raul Soares Square and Estação Square by homeless people and other users. By studying these well-used public urban open spaces in Belo Horizonte, a Brazilian large city, lessons may be learned on how to design public urban open spaces socially more inclusive. A mix of methods was chosen to gather primary data in situ: (i) unstructured observation, (ii) systematic observation, and (iii) face-to-face semi-structure interview. A quali-quantitative approach to data analysis was adopted. It was found that those people perceived to be unappropriated tend to carry out optional social activities at the edges, or rather, at the backstage of central urban squares, possibly to avoid conflict. Most importantly, the evidence suggests that environmental pleasantness tends to facilitate active social interaction between undesirables and the other users in central urban squares.