By Ensiyeh Ghavampour, AECOM Auckland, Mark Del Aguila, TAFE, SA and Brenda Vale, Victoria University of Wellington
In inner urban areas, where land values are high and city governments have limited budgets, designing successful public spaces and using resources wisely is essential. With the increasing need for more quality public spaces in cities, planning authorities usually prepare design guidelines based on international research to help ensure quality will be achieved. However, with design guidelines failing to create quality spaces with enduring success, placeless spaces continually need to be redeveloped. There are many successful public spaces around the world, however, the application of guidelines developed from observations and surveys of these spaces creates visionary spaces without connections to their context. With spaces lacking character and failing to fit with local use, there is an increasing demand for a rethinking of design methodology in public open space.
Our paper, ‘A GIS Mapping & Analysis of Behaviour in Small Urban Public Spaces’, recently published in Area, investigates links between behaviour and design in context. Using time interval still photography, activity in four small public spaces in Wellington CBD (New Zealand) was recorded and mapped with GIS. Comprehensive and detailed analyses of activity, age, gender, group size, and length of stay indicated that:
- Design elements can be successful in one space, yet under-utilised in a different context.
- Functionality of a design is a result of the configuration of elements within the site with respect to the site’s location and orientation.
- Guidelines should direct designers toward creation of spaces that afford opportunities for users rather than focusing on checklists of specific design elements
- The process of defining and setting design guidelines for the physical environment should be re-conceptualised with an emphasis on planning for anticipated activities.
About the authors: Ensiyeh Ghavampour is an Urban Designer at AECOM, she has a PhD in Urban Design and Landscape Architecture from Victoria University of Wellington. Mark Del Aguila, Advanced Building Studies, TAFE SA, and Brenda Vale is a Professorial Research Fellow in the School of Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington.
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