Richard Rogers: “When public space is eroded, our civic culture suffers, even our democracy.”

    The chair of the first RIBA International Prize grand jury, renowned British architect and Pritzker Prize winner Richard Rogers, joins CNN Style as guest editor for November. He’ll be commissioning feature stories on a subject he describes as close to his heart — the democratization of public space.

    (CNN)When I visit a foreign city, it is the public spaces and shared experiences that I remember, as much as the façades or interiors of individual buildings.

    Architecture is not about buildings viewed in isolation, but about the experience of cityscapes, about how buildings respond to topography, frame space and create the structure of cities.

    I love the way that narrow alleyways, with the sunshine turned to shadow on buildings, pavements and pedestrians, suddenly explode into the dazzling light of piazzas.

    Public spaces — our streets and squares, parks and pavements — are the stages for public life; the public realm is at the heart of our life as social animals.

    It provides for the meeting of friends and strangers, for the exchange of goods and ideas, for moments of tranquillity, and for political protest.

    The politics of public space

    My practice’s architecture has always sought to extend civic space into buildings, to extend the public into the private realm, to bring light and air into cultural institutions, law courts and legislatures.

    Our breakthrough project, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, gave half the site over to a piazza, and extended this piazza through walkways and enclosed escalators up the façade of the building.