Public Spaces

Discussion

Urban public spaces are a means by which people can have contact with nature and with other human beings.

A well designed public space encourages people to stop, sit down, and enjoy the trees, the birds, and the presence of other people. It should make people feel comfortable with each other, and encourage spontaneous conversation.

Urban Ecology Articles

Can Adelaide Become a City for People not Cars? Joan Carlin. Urban Ecology Australia - Professor Jan Gehl's ideas for improving public space in downtown Adelaide.

Readings

Public Spaces - Importance

Life between Buildings - Using Public Space. Jan Gehl

Life between buildings offers an opportunity to be with others in a relaxed and undemanding way.

Opportunities for meetings and daily activities in the public spaces of a city or residential area enable one to be among, to see, and to hear others, to experience other people functioning in various situations.

If activity between buildings is missing, the lower end of the contact scale also disappears. The varied transitional forms between being alone and being together have disappeared.

The boundaries between isolation and contact become sharper - people are either alone or else with others on a relatively demanding and exacting level.

Public Spaces - Adelaide

Public Spaces, Public Life (PDF) Jan Gehl. City of Adelaide. 2002

Adelaide is a beautifully planned city with access to the river and surrounding parks and now is the time to understand the true value of the city's potentials and develop beautiful public spaces, that will strengthen the identity of the city as well as people's sense of ownership.

Public Spaces - Melbourne

Liberating the Heart of the City. James Button. The Age. 2002.9.6

Melbourne is one of nine global cities that have been rescued from slow death and handed back to the humans that live in them.

Life is becoming more and more privatised. People have private homes, cars, computers, offices and shopping centres. The public component of our lives is disappearing. It is more and more important to make our cities inviting, so we can see what the citizens are like, not just the bad things we see on TV. Cities are part of a democratic life and a full life.

How does a city bring back people? Widen the footpaths to encourage the spread of outdoor cafes and other kinds of street life. Install attractive benches and street paving. Encourage students to live in the city. Reduce car parks and car access to the city (but do this slowly, to encounter less resistance).

People are drawn to crowded, bustling spaces, where those unpredictable, surprising actors - other human beings - are on centre stage. People make detours on their walking journeys to pass through busy streets. Pensioners take long bus journeys just to pass a morning. The park bench most used is the one that faces a crowd.

Pedestrian Cities

Pedestrian Cities. Paul Makovsky - Encourage walking and cycling. Discourage cars and parking.

Public Spaces - Copenhagen

Learning from Copenhagen. Paul Makovsky - An interview with Danish architect Jan Gehl on how public spaces work.

For People-Oriented Cities. Petr Stìpánek - An Interview with Urbanist Jan Gehl

In the present day society, with many more small households and new lifestyles, people have a great need to go to the city and to meet other people and participate themselves rather than just go on the Internet or watch TV and see pictures of things. In the city you can be there yourself and you can see for yourself and you can use all your senses.

Throughout the world you can see examples of pedestrians being badly treated. One of the things to watch is the very high priority put on traffic and the very low priority on people. I have watched stoplights at intersections throughout the world: in Australia, in Japan and found appalling comparisons between the time that is allowed for people to get across the street and the time that is allowed for cars to pass through the intersection.

Public Spaces and Crime

Public Spaces and Community Crime Prevention (PDF). Rob White

What people most often value about the twice weekly visit to the library, or even the daily stroll in the park, is an opportunity to meet other people whether they are neighbours, relatives, close or casual friends, and to have their social identity confirmed in the process of these spontaneous, unorganised encounters. Our social identity is partly formed by these public appearances and relationships, and although they can also happen in private or commercial settings, there does seem to be something different about life in the free, non-instrumental sanctuary of the library or the park, where one is a citizen rather than a consumer.

The contrast between highly sanitised, extensively regulated spaces (as in some shopping complexes) and less pristine urban environments with less overt social controls makes the latter a desirable place to visit for many people, at least on an occasional basis.

Links

Project for Public Spaces

2006.7.21