Urban societies were greatly affected by the economic crisis in Europe and the politics of austerity that were imposed on them. Urban austerity regimes also turned public space, a common good, into a commodity. In the face of these developments citizen initiatives have produced public spaces alternative to hegemonic urban planning, alternative in their development process, their programme and values. This paper has the aim to analyse the material effects of the crisis on cities and the transformations the governance of public space has undergone. Case studies from Madrid and Berlin give insights into the paradigms of hegemonic urban development and the counter models of public spaces produced by citizen initiatives bottom-up. Theory on invited and irruptive participation and changing government attitudes as an analytic framework serve to break up the complexity of collaboration and counteraction between authorities and citizens in the governance of public spaces and shows the capacity of these spaces to re-politicise urban development models.