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Essay: The production of a new urban public experience – An Intersection of an Ecological Design of Urban Wellness

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Looking at Public spaces as connector’s, where people of different cultures can come and intersect in an urban public space.
The topic is developed based on research of the use and spatial qualities of public spaces, iconic buildings and cultural centre spaces. These can act as spaces to active and reconnect the surrounding urban area by reimaging the boundaries as cultural spaces which is connected to the city and public buildings as generators for an urban life. And an Architectural environment that enhances both social and interaction of wellbeing. A place of exchange with outdoor spaces and activity zones where people can relax, gather, learn and play. The space will act as a city generator and link public spaces together.
If public spaces and parks are planned around major public destinations, they build local economies, civic pride, social connection and human contentment. These spaces serve as ‘safety valves’ for a city, where people can find either breathing room or relaxation in a well-planned space. The most effective public spaces are ‘multi-use destinations’ with many attractions and activities, where citizens can find common ground and where society and economic strains can go unnoticed.(‘the Future of Cities Placemaking and the,’ n.d.)
When public spaces are successful they will increase opportunities to participate in communal activity. This fellowship in the open nurtures the growth of public life, which is stunted by the social isolation of ghettos and suburbs. In the parks, plazas, markets, waterfronts, and natural areas of our cities, people from different cultural groups can come together in a supportive context of mutual enjoyment. As these experiences are repeated, public spaces become vessels to carry positive communal meaning. (Carr, Francis, Rivlin and Stone, 1993, p. 344)
‘In memorable experience of architecture space matter and the time fuse into one singular dimension, into a basic substance of being, that penetrates our consciousness. We identify ourselves with this space, this place, this very moment, and these dimensions become ingredients of our very existence. Architecture is the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this mediation takes places through the sense.’ (Pallasmaa 2006: 36)
Importance of public spaces
At this current time a lot of consideration has been given on to the human element in the urban city planning and there is also a need for value in these communal spaces. The meaning of these spaces is generally accepted by one and all. The critical Question is looking at successful public spaces and what makes these spaces successful? Nonetheless one can say that we find that in several instances well designed public spaces sometimes don’t produce a good public response. In this paper I will explore and study a place where there have been successful public spaces.
1. What makes a successful public space?
2. Have people who use it had any role to play in making it a successful?
3. What role, a designer can play in making a space successful?
4. What makes an unsuccessful public space?
5. How are these spaces important?
6. What are the challenges of these spaces?
7. What is a public space?
Public space defined:
If I have to define what is a public space it is a space that tends to evoke images of open space, Openness is implied in both terms public and spaces. So we can say it is space made for people and made by people.
As Loukaitou sideris and Banerjee (1998, p.175) observe: ‘public life involves relatively open and universal social contexts, in contrast to private life, which is intimate, familiar, shielded, controlled by the individual, and shared only with family and friends’.
A Public space is communal place where everyone likes to spend more time not doing anything distinct and enjoyable surroundings. This can be libraries, community centres, streets, plaza and parks. The magnitudes of public space are ‘physical and social’. Physical spaces means a space.
William White (1980) in his study in New York gave more emphasis on ‘small scale open spaces in towns, squares, piazzas, plazas, pocket parks and street as the important public space,’ which are external public spaces, where social activities occur. ‘
The next question is the meaning of towns and cities? Is it a space where people build houses from themselves? Or maybe these spaces are breathing entities where people stay in, because if you understand the difference between a home and a house one will be able to appreciate the difference. For an outsider a building can be just a structure composed of two elements walls and roof, but for another person staying there it means a lot to that person because that person is attached sentimentally. In public spaces as well this sense of attachment is also the same in a Marco level. Hence, when we talk about of evolved public spaces, this are spaces created by the people, and people have created these spaces for themselves, these spaces tend to suit peoples cultures and tradition.
‘The city is discussed in barren gutted terms and in technical jargon by urban professional as if it were lifeless, detached being. In fact it is a sensory, emotional, lived experience.’ (Landry 2006,p.2).
If you plan a city from scratch you are in an advantage as a designer, because you as a designer you can give your best design input. The designer can be able to provide a well deigned public space. But in some cases this is hard because if these spaces were designed without taking to account the user’s needs these spaces can fail through.
Sennet (1973, p100).in his critical statement said ‘… they have failed, not for lack of technical expertise, but because they have not had the power to be adaptive over the course of time’
Barnad (1994) in his account of ‘ How Building Learn’ suggested that good architecture is not necessarily produced by design specialists but by the spontaneous and continuous activity of the people’.
Christopher Alexander asks ‘why our modern cities so often lack a sense of natural growth, and goes on to suggest a set of rules and guidelines by which we can inject that organic character back into our high streets, buildings and squares’.
What is a successful public space?
What are these successful public spaces? One can say that, these successful public spaces exist in places which are commonly accepted by the public. These are spaces where one will be able to delight and visually appreciate the multiply activities. The public spaces that are spaces that I am describing in my essay are spaces that are accessible to everyone whether young and old.
Agreeing to Fancis Tibbalds: he says that public spaces consist of rich, vibrant, mixed use environments that does not die at night or on weekends. The space is visually stimulating and attractive to residents and visitors. People tend to measure successful public spaces because of the overlapping use of diverse, excitement activities that take place in that particular space. The spaces must be a safe zone area. Furthermore it must be a place where different cultures would like to gather, relax, learn and play daily.
Henry Sheftoe, ‘Says that successful public spaces are ‘Convivial’ he elaborates and says that, its festive, sociable, jovial, merry making spaces that are convivial spaces. He also says that we need spaces like these in cities, towns and villages because the public spaces would be filled with thoughtless buildings in these particular public spaces, and people will than miss the opportunity for such convivial spaces and to have causal interactions between friends and strangers’.
The designer’s point of view doesn’t matter but what matters the most is the individuals view. Professionals in this topic have given different boundaries in assessing the success of public spaces from the case studies and research that I have gathered in my topic, I have managed to analyse the critical and important factors of public spaces which are linkages, access, comfort, image user, activities and sociability. In my essay topic the success of public spaces are defined by applying these four parameters only. Accessibility relates more to willingness people are willing to walk to a particular space, which is a surrounding area or nearby. Comfort and images depends on the attention of the user.
Agreeing to book ‘Image of the City’ (Lynch, p.9), ‘the quality in a physical object which gives it a high probability to evoking a strong image in any given observer’.
Decent and comfortable spaces tend to create a good image on the mind. The element of comfort in a space is an experience view in the user’s mind. If there is well designed seating, lighting, mobility and an area which is traffic free. All of these elements make up the criteria. When people go to a certain public spaces, they have got different reasons to go to that particular space, for that reason to go to that particular space there must be multiply activities happening in that public space and this will make it a convivial, with mixed and multiply use activities tend to produce best public response. This depends on how many people use the space so if a space is designed for a particular or small group of users than other people won’t find space interesting and this will only attract few users for that space. A public space must be able to provide a welcoming atmosphere to all of its user’s all the time. The kind of activities that you find in a public space are the reasons that make you visit the space. These type of activities will activate, interact and connect with each other.
When people think about cities they tend to think of certain things they tend to think of buildings, streets and skyscraper, But when I think about cities, I think about people cities are fundamentally about people and where people go and where people meet are the core elements on what makes the city works and so even more important than buildings in the city. The public spaces in some cities today is where the most transformative changes are happening in these public spaces. So I believe that lively and enjoyable public spaces are the key elements to design a great city they make the city come to alive.
But what makes a public space works is what attract people to successful public spaces and what is about unsuccessful public spaces that keep people away.
I thought if I could answer those questions, I can make a huge contribution to my city. My study is in how people use public spaces.
Spaces like Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban did not just happen by chance. The space required huge amount of dedication. But what was it about that made this space special and drew people to it. When I was in Durban I sat very carefully and watched as people would come in to the space. People would come in and find their own seat and then stay for a while and then people will attract other people. I felt at peace when there were other people around this space as people often said the Gugu Dlamini Park is dead. But this space brought comfort and greenery to people.
But my question was why are these spaces in the city why can’t this spaces be in the waterfront, these spaces can act as urban generators to the city. But unfortunately that’s not how cities have been designed. You also get public plaza’s which are in our city which are designed for generations which have that stylish modern look which at time are often associated to modern architecture not surprisingly that people tend to avoid spaces like these, but architect’s love these spaces as plinths of our creations. For developers there is nothing to maintain and no undesirable people to worry about. And what will people do in these spaces than abandon these spaces.
As a future Architect, I want to truly change the city that I come from Durban. I want to create a space that can be able to give you a convivial feeling. But in my research I have learnt that how hard it is to create successful public spaces, Multi use destination spaces. And they certainly don’t happen by accident especially in the city like Durban. Where Multi use destination spaces have to be thought for you to even begin with the designing the space. And then to be successful someone has to think about them in every detail open public spaces in cities they are opportunities for commercial investment but they are also opportunities for the common good of the city, and those two things are usually not aligned with each other here lies a conflict between the two spaces.
When people all over the world come to that successful space this will change the city’s image as a whole a great example is the Highline project in Manhattan west.
Where how do you turn a public space to people to be a successful space is up to the person designing that space. The person must not tap in to his professional capacity as an Architect, urban designer or planner but must tap in to his humanity, In other words would you want to go there? Would you want to be there? Would you want to stay there? Can you see into it and out of it? Are there other people there? Doesn’t seem green and friendly? What am I learning in this space? Can you find your own seat?
No matter how popular public spaces maybe it can never be taken for granted. Public spaces always needs champions not only to claim them for public use but maintain them, take care of them and make them safe for everyone. And to be violated, abounded, invaded or ignored.
Public spaces have power it’s not just about the number of people using them but it’s even greater number of people who feel better about the city just knowing that they even there public spaces can change how you live in cities. How you feel about a city whether you choose one city or another public space are the reasons you stay in a city. I believe a successful city is like an extraordinary people staying together and having a great time
The urban landscape
The Urban landscape is an intertwined fabric as well of matter of memory. The readability of architecture comes clear in statements in architecture and landscape perception for this we need landmarks exceptions that comes out of the rule in terms of architecture. This could be achieved by differences in height in materiality in colour through innovative design. But what makes a land mark building is an iconic building is the specialized and public opinion an icon building is a society statement something counting out from an idea of identity a common heritage for the future. Iconic vibrant landscape place making in the city creating that opportunity to create an iconic urban. This will create a space in Durban that doesn’t exist. A place where people can experiment the entire city and take part in the cultural activities that take place in the space. A special environment to have lunch dream. Do not just come there as a place or a park.
The creation of place, the creation of public spaces are the spaces which are important the space will become the heart of the city and give meaning and activity to the space. The life of the public building and creations of those public spaces add value are important more than the object of the building. The building can make an iconic statement to the city but what is important is the spaces that the building creates internally and externally. I find Architecture very exciting because in my research I have gathered it is not about making a building it is about making a place, making a statement to a particular area or space that will impact the city
Public spaces and Culture
Urban theorist have interpreted that physical and social aspects of these open community spaces have a vital role in the establishment of public spaces and cultural spaces allot of these showed spaces have been symbols of the combined elements.
In my topic I have looked at the common shared assets and the civic involvement and also looked at the urban civic culture and how it can be supported through mobilizations that works with social responses and echoes ‘different placed diversity. The connection between urban a public spaces has become brittle due to the modification changes in the people that the space is for and also evolution of political and institutional spaces. The linkage between civic spaces remains very strong under certain conditions of comprehensive organisation of convivial spaces. I believe the circumstances must be on the problem itself and must not be condescended to the interfaces with it. (Iveson, 2007. Watson, 2006).
Highlighting the importance of this situation and its influence of inspiration. The intervention is situated at multiplicity and diversity has to be applied as a solution. The proposal below is to reinforce civic culture, as a result to this it must be read as a new ideologies of urban public space which there are four important words which are multiplicity, symbolic solidarity, conviviality and technologies maintenance.
How should we capture the rhythm of everyday life in public spaces because these multi use destination spaces have their own beats and resonances which frequently changes and how do we identify a connection between the rhythms and spaces together. Multiplicity is an urban sociality and developments, but there are other examples of density and how different cultures come together in a space where multiplicity resonates with energy through pulses of movements and takes observant care that act as informal sources of regulations of public spaces and civic culture. (Groth; Corijn, 2005).
Civic promises by investigating relationships of symbolic use of public spaces, But it is not this type of harmonious organization that I have here it is the way that the public spaces can mission social togetherness. Public spaces and cultural experience come with an astonishing aptitude explaining and revealing innovative social thoughts and by expressing that urban public culture can be structured in techniques are more plural.
Memory in Architecture?
Every piece of art exists in two worlds, it is first painted in canvas and then it’s a poetic existence image than there is the tension between the two. It is the practical craft of an art together both are important and understanding of architecture and both are equally important it is the art which is architecture in that sense. That is an extending expression like a poem or song or painting but architecture has that tool of multiply essences. Memory in architecture, memory is encoded in architecture
Place making?
Place making is taking many different kinds of skills and its much complex than one can realise it. Place is about the re centring the power of shaping communities in communities and drawing from the best in this different disciplines and skills.
How do we reinvent the way we participate in our communities and the way that government works’?When we focus on a place we tend to do things differently.’ William H (Holly Whytle)
The organisation of man 1956.
William looked at the activities of the cities in the human scale and that we are forgetting to design to public intersection spaces for our communities for people, for human interaction and for comfort, when we get this right a lot of things fall together and into place.
When you focus on place you tend to do things right and correctly and how it changes the way we are participating in the recreational of our communities. Human comfort and interaction of Movement.
Convergence in the idea of place is for the focus of people but how do we build on that to reshape our land use and economically development models, but we focus on place in a holistically way looking at how the users of the space not having to preserve the form but the best way is to preserve the users and create new users and not preserve the form. Some place making projects were defined by the users but not about the form. The activities and the users are the primary elements that celebrated in the space.
‘We shape our public spaces, there after public spaces shapes us.’ Wiston Churchill
We don’t realize that we are shaped by our communities and how we are connected to our communities
Slowly, purposeful and random as they may appear sidewalk context and small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow.
But no one a has focused on growing and creating public spaces which are comfortable
But if we plan our cities to create this type of public spaces where our people can gather and be able to connect on the particular public spaces. It’s hard to create a space that will attract people. What is remarkable is often this has been accomplished William H Whyte
We see a lot award winning designers of public spaces limiting the public outcomes through a design approach that were not seeing the public spaces. It is not about the design it about management than process of which they are created and integration to context that’s the reason that makes theses spaces successful. It is the activity that makes the design more important when we lead with place and place management. And this draws up the creativity of architecture and the demand of architecture and they creativity but designers are struggling with good potential public spaces. We have to lead with place but not with design because the community defines us.
What attracts people the most it would appear is other people wiiliam h whyte
We forget the basics idea that we want places that we want people to go to. We always says that we are in good space unless we have a parking problem. So if we plan for cars and traffic you will get cars and traffic, if you plan for development you will get development, if you plan for design you will get design, in other words you get what you planned for. We need to start to plan for people and places you get more people and places. What makes a good place the reason to be in that space is the users and the activities? When we focus on creating a place you need do everything differently when you start to see how people evaluate they public spaces around places its actually changes everything. When you focus on the place its actually more fundamental way in accomplishing many other goals that we have in our communities from the diversity of users.
Nurtures and defines community identity.
Fosters frequent and meaning contact.
Draws a diverse population.
Promotes sense of comfort.
Creates improved accessibility.
Builds and supports the local economy.
Strong places makes local economies which are viable in places that makes local retail people are talking about place and spaces that they are attached to. The soul of community is not measured by aesthetics but it’s measured by the opportunities of social engagement and public spaces, but these are qualities of a good public spaces.
Place making means to trade attachment where there is a greater attachment to the community there is also a greater economic growth greater entrepreneurship and greater connections and commitment being in the community. The way I frame this research around place and place making is the power of ten.
City Region = 10 major Destinations districts
District/ destination= 10 places.
Place= 10 things to do.
Place making provides the link between urban excellence, economic development, sustainability and public health. Place making gets broader and broader everyday it is about turning a neighborhood, town or city from a place you can’t wait to get through to, that you don’t want to leave. Place making is the creation of a built environment that creates communities, stimulates interaction, encourages innovation and nurtures humanity. It is a process of giving a space a memory that is shares memory. We see this as a way to re- invent and proclaim space

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