Urban public space is extraordinarily adaptable under a pattern of relatively stable changes. However, when facing unprecedented and potentially extreme climatic changes, public spaces may not have the same adaptation capacity. In this context, planned adaptation gains strength against “business as usual”. While public spaces are among the most vulnerable areas to climatic hazards, they entail relevant characteristics for adaptation efforts. As such, public space design can lead to effective adaptation undertakings, explicitly influencing urban design practices as we know them. Amongst its different intrinsic roles and benefits, such as being a civic common gathering place of social and economic exchanges, public space may have found an enhanced protagonism under the climate change adaptation perspective. In light of the conducted empirical analysis, which gathered existing examples of public spaces with flood adaptation purposes, specific public space potentialities for the application of flood adaptation measures are here identified and characterized. Overall, this research questions the specific social potentiality of public space adaptation in the processes of vulnerability tackling, namely considering the need of alternatives in current flood management practices. Through literature review and case study analysis, it is here argued that: people and communities can be perceived as more than susceptible targets and rather be professed as active agents in the process of managing urban vulnerability; that climate change literacy, through the design of a public space, may endorse an increased common need for action and the pursuit of suitable solutions; and that local know-how and locally-driven design can be considered as a service with added value for adaptation endeavors.
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