The “secret” of high-quality public space
One of the most important aspects of a city is public space, particularly high-quality public space that not only provides outdoor recreational areas for socializing, exercising, and playing but also has a good impact on people’s health. The closure of public areas has created social instability and protests, demonstrating that their use is not only interspersed in our lives but also provides economic and social benefits to the community or local area.
Definition of public space
There are numerous definitions of public space, but the UK government defines it as “all those parts of the built and natural environment where the public has free access.” This includes all streets, squares, and other rights of way, while primarily used for residential, commercial, or community/civic purposes; open spaces and parks; and “public/private” locations with unlimited public access (at least during daytime hours). It contains connections with major internal and private places to which the general public has unrestricted access.’ (as cited by Carmona et al., 2012)
The type of public place
Formal public spaces serve as locations for people to interact, live, and move around, whilst smaller size public spaces may just be places to play, hang out, and rest. This includes everything from conventional plazas to attached urban spaces to a variety of new spaces (Cho, Chye Kiang Heng and Trivic, 2016). Sidewalks, streets, playgrounds, parks, tiny plazas in housing or community centres, and municipal complexes are examples (Ministry of Housing et al., 2021).
Elements of high quality for public spaces
A well-designed public place has a variety of characteristics that must take into account the many people that utilize it (e.g., pedestrians and cyclists).
- Conveniently located venues promote socialization and activities that improve well-being, physical and mental health, and civic inclusion.
•Accessibility and Connectivity: Outdoor spaces must be available to all, and easy access to and from these interconnected street networks not only stimulates walking and cycling, decreasing dependency on cars, but also saving energy. Seating is the most significant feature in luring people to a square or park, according to Whyte (1980), who studied and evaluated people’s behaviour in New York’s squares and streets.
•Outdoor amenities and Functions: The inclusion of outdoor amenities such as sports facilities, theatres, playgrounds, kiosks, monuments, public art, furniture, restroom facilities, and so on not only promotes user contact with the area but also makes the place more meaningful. Outdoor gallery in Nasher Sculpture Center (PWP, n.d.)
•Cultural identity: Monuments, heritage, and other culturally and historically significant components in public spaces promote the importance of public space and are necessary for respecting the past and collective memory of all cultures (Low, 2022). For example, in the United States, the architecture of 9/11 Park not only creates a public resting place but also enriches our memories of the past by stressing the identity as well as the setting of the region.
Public space in National Septermber 11 Memorial (PWP, n.d.)
2. A safe, attractive and secure outdoor place.
•buildings along the street, particularly diverse types of enterprises on the street, the building’s windows and entrances and exits facing the outdoor space or the street, not only can form natural surveillance but also can attract more pedestrians and eliminate grey space to prevent crime from occurring (Jacobs, 1961).
3. Green space
Green space is composed of green features including trees, plants, green roofs, and green walls that not only construct a series of outdoor landscapes to provide a comfortable and tranquil setting but also influence the microclimate(Whitten and Massini, 2021). The utilization of green space has been particularly important in the aftermath of the pandemic, integrating into streets and parks to establish a network of green spaces.
4. Control and manage.
The concept of public space emphasizes open, unrestricted, and free access. However, in order to protect and create responsibility for these areas, some legislation and management are required (Carmona, 2019). These regulations and management can make public space management more effective and sustainable. Examples include the administration of restricted night-time access and the maintenance of public facilities.
Luxembourg Garden Precedent (Paris, France)
Luxembourg Garden, which opened to the public in the 17th century, is commonly regarded as the largest and nicest garden in Paris, comprising 60 acres( MamaLovesParis, 2017). It offers everything one would expect from a high-quality public place, including tree-lined promenades and seasonal flowers. It also contains rooms for activities for people of all ages, lounges, courts, children’s play areas, and even concerts, puppet shows, and other events. This means that the space is adaptable and unique in the face of change and that it may be used for a range of activities and purposes.
People resting in the Garden (Jardin Du Luxembourg, 2023)
Playing chess in the Garden (Jardin Du Luxembourg, 2023)
Its accessibility is likely one of the factors that contribute to its success; it is well integrated into the urban fabric of the area, making access quite convenient. Not only does it have a high-quality position near sites like Notre Dame de Paris and the Musée Curie, but it also has exceptional connectivity with these landmarks in the area. In terms of management, Luxembourg Gardens is free to the public, however access at night is limited, and hours vary depending on the season( MamaLovesParis, 2017). As a result, good management and long-term use are achieved.
In short, a high-quality public space necessitates a number of elements, including a good location, encouragement of social activities, safety, greenness, management, and regulation. Such high-quality public space is a vital component of urban areas for interaction, networking, and providing inhabitants with a convenient, comfortable, and high-quality environment.
Carmona, M., Heath, T., Taner Oc and Tiesdell, S. (2012). Public Places – Urban Spaces. Routledge.
Carmona, M. (2019). Principles for public space design, planning to do better. URBAN DESIGN International, [online] 24(1), pp.47–59. doi:https://doi.org/10.1057/s41289-018-0070-3.
Cho, I, S; Chye Kiang Heng and Trivic, Z (2016). Re-framing urban space: urban design for emerging hybrid and high-density conditions. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
Jacobs, J. (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House.
Jardin Du Luxembourg(2023): Everything You Need To Know. [online] Available at: https://delveintoeurope.com/jardin-du-luxembourg/ [Accessed 9 Nov. 2023].
Low, S. (2022). Why Public Space Matters. Oxford University Press.
MamaLovesParis (2017). Jardin du Luxembourg. [online] Mama Loves Paris. Available at: http://mamalovesparis.com/jardin-du-luxembourg/ [Accessed 9 Nov. 2023].
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (2021), The ten characteristics, In National Design Guide,pp9-49.
PWP, (n.d.). Nasher Sculpture Center. [online] Available at: https://www.pwpla.com/projects/nasher-sculpture-center.
Whyte, W.H. (1980). The social life of small urban spaces. New York: Project for Public Spaces.
Whitten, M. and Massini, P. (2021). How Can Inequalities in Access to Green Space be Addressed in a Post-Pandemic World? Lessons from London. Policy Press eBooks, [online] pp.87–96.