Public Spaces
ARE 03 - 15 - 2010

We have seen several public pedestrian spaces. It's easy to create an open space and keep traffic out, but what makes people come to the space and use it? According to studies, there are seven elements that help create a successful public space: seating, people-watching, a node / relation to a street, white noise / water, vegetation / scale, food, an event / something to do. The two sketches on the right are examples of successful public spaces. They are a pedestrian street in Budapest, Hungary (top), and Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy. Each of them contains many if not all of the elements listed. The Piazza del Popolo terraces on both sides, enticing movement around the space and offering views and opportunities for people-watching. Shops around the edges of each space provide activities for people using the space and places for people to get food. In the Italian piazza most of the elements, including people-watching, white noise, vegetation, and activities, could only be found along the edge of the piazza. As a result the edge is also where most of the people were found, leaving the large, open, element-less space in the middle of the piazza rather lifeless. The pedestrian street in Budapest, one of the most pedestrian friendly cities we have been to, was a little more successful at mingling the elements and was also more populated. Below is a sketch of Hero Square in Budapest, Hungary an example of an unsuccessful public space. The square is very large and seems to be designed for lots of pedestrian traffic. There is only a monument depicting Hungarian political leaders in the square. It has no seating, vegetation, or water, which are all elements that enhance the comfort of a public space. There is no apparent, immediate activity, therefore, the space is only used when an activity is planned; similar to a large stadium, which sits empty until an event is scheduled. The only people using the space arrived on a coach, had a camera, and did not stay for very long.

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