Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Evaluating and Improving Your Urban Spaces

San Antonio Riverwalk
I wanted to write this post in connection with the post done on Thursday of last week: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. In that post I shared a video and synopsis of the principles of small urban spaces. In this post I would like to go over the ways in which we can evaluate our urban spaces and use the principles taught in the video to improve those spaces.

Evaluating Urban Spaces:
Although an evaluation of an urban space can be fairly subjective, we will use the guidelines from The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces as a way to measure the effectiveness of any space.

The main principles taught in that video are as follows:
  • Sitting Space - If there is no place to sit there is no reason to stay. Planters, ledges, movable chairs, benches, etc can all serve as sitting space.
  • Social Space's relationship to the street - I would define this as access. Is the park easily accessible and in a naturally popular area?
  • Light or sun - Few people enjoy the cold, and in a social space fewer enjoy darkness.
  • Water features - These provide white noise and focal points or relaxation for visitors to the social space.
  • Trees and plants - These offer shade protection and a feeling of comfort.
  • Food - Food often brings people together.
  • Entertainment - This can be street performers, musicians, sculptures, art, festivals, etc. Are there things that bring people into the space and create memories?
When evaluating any urban space it needs to be done with at least these things in mind. Simply grade your public space on those items above and give it an overall score.

Movable chairs
Improving Urban Spaces:
Once you have given it a score in each of the areas focus on those areas with the worst scores. Then brainstorm ways to transition this space into a better urban space. In doing this think of long and short term strategies.

For example if the sittable space is lacking look to put in movable chairs and tables, and eventually add planters or ledges to permanently provide seating.

These things will allow you to better understand the space and why it is or is not working well for your community. For more ideas of visioning and improving your area please contact me or comment on the post.

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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.