The physical construction and modification of space in cities are often associated with the disciplines of urban or landscape design, which entail a wide-scale overview and long-term interventions. Nonetheless, complex city theories show how vibrant streets and neighborhoods, to a large extent, organically evolve, adapt, and self-regenerate over time, thanks to a series of incremental temporary and tiny spatial adjustments emerging from the spontaneous initiatives of multiple individuals. These interventions are linked to the knowledge developed in other spatial design disciplines related to micro-scale short-term transformations, such as architecture, interior, and product design. They rarely address, however, problems related to urban adaptive cycles – of streets and neighbourhoods–which unfold beyond the scale of their usual activities. In this respect, the present paper highlights how: (1) spatial designers who aim to foster processes of self-regeneration need to observe and understand the multiple rhythms and scales of social-spatial adaptation, (2) such systemic understanding enhances the potential for unexpected synergies between different approaches, techniques and scales of intervention that belong to the various spatial design disciplines, and (3) these synergies could improve the capability of spatial designers to trigger/accelerate processes of self-regeneration in cities. The specific topic of the spontaneous evolution of public-private interfaces over time is here used to illustrate the argument.
KEYWORDS: adaptive cycles, spatial design, public-private interfaces, urban regeneration, multi-scale thinking, systems thinking