When you think of Europe, what comes to mind? Grand piazzas? Beautiful green spaces like the lush lawns around the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Hyde Park in London? Well people all over the world are working to bring the people back to the public square.

Thermal Orchards in Caldes de Montbui, Spain

One entity addressing public spaces in urban settings is the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. The center selects an international jury that chooses a winner from entries of revitalized and reimagined public spaces for its European Prize for Urban Public Space. This year, 276 candidates from 33 countries submitted entries. The works of the 25 finalists will be featured in an exhibition that will tour different European cities over the next two years.

The prize was created in 2000 and, according to the CCCB, “has become a recognized showcase of the evolution of public space in Europe and is a finger on the pulse of the main concerns of European cities today.

Heavenly Hundred Garden in Kiev, Ukraine

“The aim of the prize is to recognize and foster the public character of urban spaces and their capacity for fostering social cohesion,” according to CCCB’s public space website. The goal of focusing on urban spaces and the civic aspects that those spaces serve makes this award different from others given for architecture or landscape design, the CCCB notes.

One design, the recovery of an irrigation system at the Thermal Orchards in Caldes de Montbui, Spain, addressed the main canal’s risky access and contaminated stream. Now there is a walkway for public access and wastewater is channeled. There is also a new public open space and a pool integrated into the existing irrigation system that cools the thermal water.

The Heavenly Hundred Garden in Kiev, Ukraine, turned a former dumpsite and shelter for stray dogs into a thriving green space where fresh vegetables are grown, open-air parties and film series are held, and musicians perform.

Tasinge Square in Copenhagen, Denmark

The refurbishment of Tasinge Square in Copenhagen, Denmark, created a green oasis that has become a place for play – including parasols that collect rainwater and can be hand-pumped to water vegetation. Entrances to two bunkers, air raid shelters that are used as rehearsal space by local musicians, are now seating areas, and sculpture pieces also foster activity with local children.

View all 25 finalists for the European Prize visit the Urban Public Space website.