We can find in the history of cities, examples of how public space has been transformed, along the different historical stages and modes of production. We realize these changes, comparing pre-industrial cities (usually the old districts), cities or parts of cities from the dawn of industrialization, and the cities or parts of cities in the rise of modernity.
In the first case we can find out how public space is configured to meet the needs of meeting people and the development of community activities. Is the time of the squares, artisans, fairs, markets outside of the free burghers fled the feudal lord. These examples may be found in the world with variations in climate and culture. We see it in the narrow streets of Marrakech that end in a large open space that is the bazaar. On the streets of Greek cities conceived as social and meeting place in the audience (public square). In the grid pattern from the main square of the Latin American and some European cities and the more organic route, following the auction highlighting visual topography and various squares and corners of several European cities.
In the second case, as we begin to lose the sense of social space and public space begins to gain ground the circulation space. This is the case of the grand boulevards of Paris and executions of Haussmann, in the case of Ringstrasse in Vienna, on the grounds of the Campus Martius. It is the time from the factories, railway stations, the first English garden suburbs. Is the time of the tracks as facilitators for circulation, but still have signs of social space.
In the third case, we have the rise of modernity, of the great highways, skyscrapers, housing complexes, industrial areas. The sense of social space public space has been completely lost, public space is intended for circulation, to facilitate production. Is the time of functionalism, the international style of Le Corbusier, the culmination of functionalism with the example of Brasilia by Lucio Costa, where all urban functions are well defined, linked by highways that cross each other to facilitate motorized circulation apartment blocks and green spaces around regardless of the human scale.
It is also the time of the destruction of Robert Moses in New York and as many Latin American cities and in terms of accommodating rapid communication between employment and housing. It is the time when in town centers and tertiary activities predominate are residential suburban areas. Appear malls in outlying areas, bringing with it new developments. Is the time of the megalopolis, the dispersion of the cities. Is the time of the departments, lifts, business, financial and speculative capital, in the gated, private clubs, the great highways of implosions in Las Vegas and the continued destruction of hotels in 10 years to build other more presumptuous.
This third case we are still living very hard to share with a fourth case, that Marc Augé calls "non-places" of the supermodernity.  is the time of the airports, the fastest means of transport. It is the era of Internet, television, information, electronic games, virtual reality, virtual worlds. It is the time from ATMs, credit cards, debit cards, supermarkets, shopping centers. It is the era of economic globalization. Is the time of the loneliness of the individual who lives in your mini apartment, a little larger than your garage, leaving in his car and a major highway goes to a mall, take out money for an ATM and then goes a supermarket where he has just a little contact with a cashier, satisfies your hunger at a local fast food in the car and wanders at night watching TV or having virtual adventures online or on your play station.
Undoubtedly, the current city has led or is leading to a situation of desperate loneliness and individualism. This is reflected in urban space, which in turn is a consequence of the consumer society and the current model of development.
Luckily this development model begins to be questioned for two reasons. That if we continue with high levels of production, consumption and waste from industrialized countries, global environmental space will be reduced considerably which would represent an ecological crisis of unpredictable consequences. The second is the challenge to consumer society itself, which has led us to live trying to acquire distressed assets that the market presented as necessary to have a "good life". Distress that has generated a selfish society socially disintegrated, where individual interests prevail, family and group on the common good.
That's why now there are new currents of thought based on love, solidarity, ecology, spiritual values and the rescue of traditions. Among these are some current educational, economic, ecological, sociological and urban planning. In addition to various sciences that are being developed based on these premises, such as medicine, renewable energy, appropriate technologies for engineering, architecture, agriculture, permaculture processes, among others. Signs that things are changing and we are entering a new era, where human beings can harmonize with the order of nature and not disturb him.
Precisely here lies the importance of urban space configuration if you want to help transform things. It is only by creating public and private spaces that can harmonize with the invisible order of nature, of which we are a small part, we can achieve more cohesive societies and happy. Understanding solidarity in the broadest sense of the word, in the ecological sense, solidarity with all members of this planet. Solidarity with the elements and life.
Diego Hurtado, May 2004.
A new era is emerging.
Another important factor that would promote a change in our urban habitat, is that of peak oil. The need for energy descent is raising a new way of living. It's a trend that is gaining strength in many cities, the re-activate the public space for many civic activities. Multiple uses, multiple network operating centralities, communities and districts with walkable distances equipment, good management of municipal waste, the return to local, are options that are being taken to adapt to this new era in which we coming. Too bad we're still here thinking of creating a city with the characteristics of the rise of modernity. (Added on 2/23/12)
 Marc Augé (1998) Non-places. Spaces of anonymity. An anthropology of supermodernity. Barcelona, Gedisa.