Public spaces are receiving a considerable amount of attention both in the research literature as well as in public policy and practical planning. Public spaces are recognised as important areas of the city which contribute to the quality of life of its citizens. Social interaction was and remains a defining requirement of city life. Public spaces have always been functionally important in providing opportunities for social interaction and communication (Gumpert and Druckner, 1992). They were where people gathered to meet, to exchange news, gossip and opinions, to see old friends, to pass the time of day, to be a flâneur. The role and function of public spaces has changed over the past few decades. Underlying these changes is the notion of control – whether it is the desire for control by one group over another be it adults over children, capitalism over consumers, communication technologies over face-to-face interaction. But public places have also been settings for liberation, appropriation and education. This symposium brings together four speakers who discuss these issues by drawing on research from Europe, North and South America.