This book will give confidence to those who want to challenge the status quo in the design and management of public space. It provides an insight into how design strategies for new public spaces can transform our cities. Illustrated throughout with international examples of best practice, ‘Revival in the Square’ provides practical advice and guidance on how to build public spaces that will bring people together for a positive, shared experience of urban living.







Focuses on the role of urban design strategies in managing the development process. It covers a broad range of topics, including politics, planning, architecture, finance, law, and project management.


Focuses on the prerequisite design feature for a city square: the right location.


Focuses upon the physical structure of the city to help ensure that new squares can relate well to the surrounding urban context. Issues relating to location, movement, access, legibility, form, scale, and use are all discussed.


Provides a detailed case study of Birmingham’s urban renaissance and shows how some of the themes of this book have been delivered in reality.

Book reviews:

“Revival in the Square demonstrates the way in which local leaders have devised strategies guiding investment decisions that have significantly transformed urban areas. The great advantage of this approach is that the experience of creating a major new public space gives local authorities the confidence and expertise to improve all of their public spaces. Nick Corbett has direct experience of delivering high quality public space and the book is well illustrated with exciting case studies, many of which have been recently completed. A better quality public realm is a key part of delivering any urban renaissance and I welcome the contribution that this book makes.”

Lord Richard Rogers, Architect


“We lived in Leeds for a while when I was a child. Whenever we’d drive past the Town Hall, my dad would tell us that the magnificent building – I particularly liked the statues of the lions – showed the pride its Victorian founders had had in their city.

I have been sent a thoughtful book called Transforming Cities: Revival in the Square by Nick Corbett, which takes this simple idea – pride in the public realm – and applies the concept to public space.

A lot of the excitement about modern urban renewal is focused on new buildings – the Sage in Gateshead; the Bullring in Birmingham…

But the argument of the book is that healthy communities depend on shared space and not just shared buildings. (By contrast tyrannical regimes tend to hate the idea of public shared space: the book points out that General Franco placed strict rules and control over the use of public squares).

Public space creates community – from public art to cafe culture.

The planning system gives Local Authorities the power to make a difference, and they need to use it.”

The Right Honourable David Miliband MP


Revival in the Square is a comprehensive review of the theory and practice underlying the creation of public space. It challenges the status quo and demonstrates how we can deliver a better public realm. Nick Corbett has contributed to the innovative approach to street design that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has championed. Revival in the Square will help to encourage imagination and innovation in this area of increasing public and political importance.”

Councillor Daniel Moylan, Deputy Leader, RBKC; Deputy Chairman, Transport for London


“The book is a practical guide to create safe, vibrant and attractive city spaces.”

Terry Grimley, Arts Correspondent, the Birmingham Post


“There is a burgeoning interest in public space quality.  However, the swelling rhetoric is seldom translated into action.  The crafting of squares is a complicated art that requires design flair and political nous in equal measure.  These skills need nurturing and Nick Corbett makes a good tutor.  He has written a refreshingly practical text that explains how squares can be successfully created or remodelled.  He has worked in local government and knows how hard it is to exercise civic leadership so that politicians, money and designers align to make a cherished public space happen.  Birmingham has achieved this over the last decade, an inspiring story that the author uses to good effect in an instructive case study.”

Ben Webster, Design Manager, Norwich City Council


“I welcome Revival in the Square because it will give confidence to people who want to challenge the status quo in the design and management of public space.”

The book demonstrates how a strategic approach can be developed to channel resources in a coherent way to transform the built environment. It shows how uncluttered and joined up public spaces can be built to promote civic values and commercial competitiveness, and how public space can bring people together for a positive, shared experience of urban living.

Jon Rouse, Chief Executive, Croydon Council


“Transforming Cities: Revival in the Square charts the history of the square as the heart of the city. From as early as the days of the classical Greeks, the square has been seen as the place to meet and interact with fellow citizens and create the social glue which holds the city together. Corbett’s book reads almost like a ‘how to’ guide to using the city square to create sustainable communities. It even includes a checklist of measures for creating an effective city square. It also focuses on how cities must be made attractive in order to encourage people to live in them…”

Mario Ambrosi, Inside Housing


“The book is about important issues: it is through spaces between buildings, not the buildings themselves, that inhabitants come to know and relate to their area – and that is crucial to their well-being…if you want a well-researched book on public spaces that tackles both theory and practice in a logical way, read on.”

Philip Cave, Green Places (incorporating Landscape Design)


Articles about the book:

“Author and urban designer Nick Corbett charts the influence of the public realm on urban regeneration – from Victorian Britain to present-day Lebanon”. Transforming Cities Book Review in Green Places (Incorporating Landscape Design) Issue 14 April 2005 P16-18. Click here to read article.

“Nick Corbett argues that the level of investment in some of our towns and cities is now comparable to the Victorian urban renaissance which transformed the heart of Britain’s industrial cities and led to greater civic pride.” Transforming Cities Book Review in Sustain magazine v06 102 P31-32. Click here to read article.

Transforming Cities Book Review in Green Spaces March 2005 P42. Click here to read article.