The story of the public realm is not just of streets and sidewalks and parks. It is also about the buildings that border public space, from shops and offices to homes and restaurants. Before air conditioning and the rise of the automobile, the structures that lined public spaces opened to the street in multiple ways, from covered second-story porches so familiar to many Pittsburgh neighborhoods to the fronts of workshops and wide-doored storefronts.
As we reopen our business districts and neighborhoods, yet at the same time design for a new normal, the places where the private realm opens up to the public are more important than ever. They have been and may continue to be seen as a kind of “safer” space for social interaction and exchange. The practice of earlier generations can contribute to designing future urbanism that opens up buildings to the public realm in new and historic ways, from industrial legacy structures to neighborhood main streets and beyond.