‘’Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.’’ Jane Jacobs.
The increasing problems of congestion and poor quality of living plaguing the cities all the same around the world have shed light on the loopholes of implementing urban planning strategies focused on vehicular mobility. The importance of giving the city back to the people and prioritizing the requirements of pedestrians has affected several changes in urban planning in the recent decade.
A shift in focus on pedestrianizing streets has brought to fore the need to reinvent the design of public spaces for better engagement. The public space designs need to pander to the different needs of the times; in succeeding to do so; they can become active nodes of interaction boosting the social conditions of a city and also ensure its longevity.
Some noteworthy experiments in making public space designs more interactive are listed here:
1. Tainan Spring, China, MVRDV Architects
The design cleverly uses the historical significance of the site to establish a new association for it. The former Chinatown mall built over the old harbor situated here next to the Taiwan Canal in 1983 lost its value with time and had become unused space. The architects have revived the area using the footprints of the old mall structure giving it new meaning.
The basement of the mall has been converted into a sunken water plaza, the shaded arcade is used for lounging, and over time the trees planted are expected to create a lush green cover. The follies left in the concrete frame of the old mall structure will be converted to shops in due time adding another dimension to space.
2. Urban Amenities, Sports Lot, Caracas, Venezuela, Architects- RicardoSanz Sosa and Rodrigo Marin Briceno
Urban Amenities, created in response to the construction of social housing projects in Caracas’s Bolivar Avenue, articulates a response in congruence with the needs of the community; creating a continuous stretch of seamlessly flowing activity zones in the form of small sports lots to seating spaces and socializing spaces for adults. The material palette is kept simple with concrete being used for the surfaces and steel for the devices. A structural pipe forms a continuous connection flowing through each space going up and down, encircling trees to determine space and suggest uses.
3. The Bentway, Toronto, Canada
The 1.75km long stretch under the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, Canada, a vital artery of the city has been revived into a thriving public space. The project makes use of the existing structure of the expressway and further creates activity zones by modifying the ground level.
There are spaces for quiet personal indulgence as well as for large scale public events, from walkways, skating tracks, an amphitheater with green rooms to a new bridge extension for establishing a connection with Fort York. This project demonstrates the potential of adaptive reuse of existing infrastructure in uplifting public life.
4. All colors Sidewalk, Jardim Everest, Brazil, Zoom Urbanismo Architects + LAO Engenharia and Design
A sidewalk represents such an integral element of our urban habitat and yet is the most overlooked. The all colors sidewalk in Sao Paulo, Brazil demonstrates how a sidewalk could be articulated to give character and meaning to a street. The sidewalk here becomes a social space for personal as well as group activities. The wooden seats at different levels provide different possibilities of engagement.
The sidewalk includes tactile signs on the pavement and maps for visually impaired persons. The walls display graffiti and artwork adding vibrancy to the street and encouraging public engagement.
5. Super Kilen, Copenhagen, Denmark, BIG Architects
Super Kilen is a celebration of the diverse community residing in the neighborhood. It has been conceptualized as such, to incorporate various objects from the representative countries, woven together in a design that assigns a new purpose and relevance to them. It creates a public plaza using visual codes of color, creating different zones for recreation including leisure, play, solitude, social gatherings, cultural nodes, marketplaces, and parking spaces. The impressionable space uplifts the city space and provides much-needed inspiration for the conception of public spaces.
6. Pixeland, Mianyang, Sichuan Province, China, 100 Architects
A unique concept for a public space, this project certainly expands one’s imagination with regards to the possibilities of design. The design draws its inspiration from the pixels that form the smallest unit of a digital image. Likewise, the public space is conceived as a composition of several such squares/pixels each serving an independent function. The entire composition uses colors, textures, and levels to add to the dynamism of the space.
7. Red Carpet. Shanghai, China, 100 Architects
Situated in the heart of the city center, a place for commerce connecting the city to its port, the site forms a strong social and cultural axis. Conceived as a red carpet for regular citizens, it lends a quality of glamour and drama to the everyday lives of the people.
It has been conceptualized as a space of performance creating an open-air amphitheater made from steel trusses and concrete blocks. The space in front is used for commerce while the building façade forms the backdrop or a screen for projection. This splash of bold red in the middle of the city certainly elevates the quality of this space.
8. Superblock of Sant Antoni, Barcelona, Leku Studio
The superblock extension in the dense city of Barcelona demonstrates an innovative take on the reversible, adaptive, and recyclable design of an urban landscape. The design creates an urban toolkit with adaptive urban furniture elements, a graphic style guide, soft landscape features, and play equipment and a method of distribution. The strategy makes it easy to expand the design to the rest of the street in an integrated manner. The design has transformed a former busy highway into an active liveable healthy public space.
9. Tel Aviv’s Central Promenade Renewal, Tel Aviv, Israel, Mayslist Kassif Architects
The central promenade in Tel Aviv is the largest most vital public space of the city, connecting the city with its waterfront. The design creates a case for the importance of a strong interactive connection between the built and the natural. The promenade is envisaged as a space for leisure, a series of steps and ramps are created that allow one to lounge and take in the view of the sea. The unused rooftops of shops have also been converted into viewing decks making maximum utilization of every unit. The design weaves in different functions such as sports facilities, various game courts, playgrounds, and relaxation areas under the palms.
10. City Thread, SPORTS (Architects), Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
Built by SPORTS, the architecture and design collaboration of Greg Corso and Molly Hunker, City Thread creates a ripple effect by way of introducing a single continuous element in design that sets in motion the anticipated appropriation of space via user perception.
The continuous steel tube running horizontally and vertically, twisting, crossing its way through the length of the alley converts the linear space into multiple smaller spaces/rooms that can be used for sitting, lounging, playing, as exhibits, film screenings, etc. The design through its vibrant use of color and minimal intervention strategy uplifts the space and lends credibility to the users by leaving room for appropriation or interpretation, an aspect most often missing in urban design interventions.