Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces has become sort of a staple in the Urban Planning field. It was one of the first experiments of its kind done to define basic principles of good urban spaces. It's 58 minutes long and a bit hard to watch in places, but I have posted the video below. If you don't care to spend the hour watching it I have given a synopsis below the video which goes into locations and principles of the video. If you have any thing to add to my notes on this video please leave them in the comments.

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces was done by the Municipal Art Society of New York, and the narrator on the project was William H Whyte. He worked closely with the Street Life Project in doing research on these small urban spaces.

Seagram Plaza
Some of the urban spaces mentioned and shown in this video are:
Under use is the great problem with most parks and urban spaces because they don't follow the principles below.


  • People tend to sit where there are places to sit (Sitting space) - One linear foot per 30 square feet. They don't have to be benches, they can be ledges or planters and need to be two backsides deep to allow for better seating. Movable chairs are always a bonus.
  • Street (Relationship to the street) - the location of the park and movement on the street past the park are important. The entrance to the park needs to be inviting and exciting to bring people in as well. Plazas need to be connected to the street or their visitors drastically decrease, so no sunken down or elevated plazas and none on higher levels in buildings. Avoid putting fences around the plazas and parks.
  • Sun (Lighting is what is most important) - The sun is most important in "nippy" weather. What people 
  • Water (Water features) - The sound of the water helps mask traffic noises and conversations, it serves as white noise. Allow people to play in the water, make it interactive or close to waterfronts.
  • Trees - Trees and plants offering micro climates, shade, protection, etc
  • Food - "If you want to seed a place with activity, put in food." Pushcarts, cafes, machines, etc. Also with the food station provide receptacles. These stands offer gossip and social spaces as well as meeting spots, and friendly greetings to the parks.
  • Triangulation (External stimulus of some kind) - This means street performers, musicians, sculptures, art, or other focal point of parks. 

San Antonio Riverwalk
Other Points:

  • Sociability and people meaning people bring more people because of people watching, safety, and entertainment.
  • Pigeon Ladies*
  • Comfort
  • Better access for all people
  • Retail properties nearby
  • Scale of park to match city size
Other Helpful Links:

Sustainability News

Check back for more news later


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.