The primary components of cities and urban areas are their streets. Although streets make up more than 80% of cities’ public space, they frequently need to provide areas where people can safely walk, bike, drive, take public transportation, and socialise. The movement to redesign and reinvest in streets as cherished public spaces for people and improve traffic is being led by cities. Here are some of the best examples of urban street design.
Hisaya-Odori Park, Nagoya, Japan | Street design
Located in the Sakae District of downtown Nagoya, Hisaya-Odori Park is a revitalised urban park linking pedestrian passages and surrounding commercial buildings. The street design ensures easy access around the site, providing visitors with a lovely walkway that passes through different parts of the city, such as the shopping district, the entertainment district and the prominent Nagoya Castle, achieving connectivity between the park and its surrounding urban context. The park is heavily influenced by the surrounding building structures, shadows, and colours, giving different atmospheres for the pedestrian walk. Moreover, the redevelopment also relocates trees to restore a healthier growth environment, transforming the park into a better green space.
Sainte-Catherine Street West & Phillips Square, Montreal, Canada
Blending the past and present, Sainte-Catherine Street West and Phillips Square redevelopment streamlined and structured the street and its surroundings, strengthening the connection between public spaces and historical buildings. This urban development enhanced user experience, economic vitality and mobility through its refined street design. One of its significant changes is eliminating street parking, broadening walkways that used to be designated for vehicles and converting them into a place for people. The nearby structures are now identified by bronze plates positioned in the street as urban markers. Additionally, the redesign significantly increases vegetation, making it more pleasant for pedestrians and contributing to a more sustainable urban environment. The project adds 14 times as many plants and 46% more vegetation. Utilising a low-level irrigation system for the flower beds, reduces water consumption and encourages water reuse from runoff.
Place de la République, Paris, France
One of Paris’s symbolic squares, the Place de la République was converted from a car-dominated space into the largest pedestrianised space in Paris. Remodelled to “give back to the Parisians” by eliminating the roundabout, the street design features a modern feature that defies France’s conventional planning principles, enabling Parisians to participate in various activities like casual meetings, friendly encounters and historic marches. Widening sidewalks around the square, this radical change shifts the ratio of parking space for cars to parking space for pedestrians from 12,000 to 24,000 square meters, resulting in a 15% decrease in vehicular traffic. (102 words)
Five Corners Square, Warsaw, Poland
Used to prioritise vehicle traffic, Five Corners Square is now a resident-friendly space with added urban furniture, maple trees and modern architecture. Vehicle traffic has been reduced to public transport as the designers, WXCA, explained, “we wanted to hand this part of the city over to the residents” (WXCA, 2022). Ensuring the square is inclusive to a variety of users like pedestrians, cyclists, public transport passengers, residents, shop owners and visitors, the space is designed without architectonic barriers, making it accessible to people with varied mobility needs. Furthermore, the street design maximises the visibility of the square, deterring criminal activity and allowing the users to feel safe.
Parque Lineal Gran Canal, Mexico City, Mexico | Street design
Over time, historic canals were transformed into roads that eventually became abandoned infrastructure spaces. The reinvention strategy proposed by Mexico City in 2019 encouraged the creation of new public spaces that increases human activity to fill in the ‘gaps’ that were once empty. The intervention, governed by environmental regeneration, involves reforestation of the area and the substitution of permeable soil, which raises relative humidity by more than 16%. In addition, the street design focuses on providing services to social groups that do not have access to equipment in the open space, proposing an island of activities spread across the site presented by thematic pavilions. The unevenness of the sunken canal space gives the landscaped slopes, ramps and stairways, adding rhythm and scale to its linear geometry.
ChonGae Canal, Seoul, South Korea
Another ambitious redevelopment initiative involving canals, the ChonGae Canal Restoration Project, celebrates the source point of cleansed surficial and subgrade runoff from the city at the start of this seven-mile green corridor (Mikyoung Kim, 2007). Located in the central business and commercial district, the ChonGae Canal is a pedestrianised space that invites people to the historic river whilst considering the catastrophic flooding that may occur during intense storms during the Monsoon season. With added slopes and stepping-stone elements to encourage public engagement with the river, the design was heavily influenced by the water levels hour by hour and season by season.
Passeig de Sant Joan, Barcelona, Spain
The remodelling of Passeig de Sant Joan aims to consider three basic criteria of urbanisation: the continuity of the route, the adaptation of urban spaces and the improvement of Paseo de Sant Joan an urban corridor. To achieve these criteria, the street design extends sidewalks while still keeping existing trees, clarifying the point of the axis along the route. The diverse usage of urban spaces brings about a stronger connection between users, converting the space into a zone of movement and annotating traffic spaces. To achieve a functioning urban corridor, the framework of the project was formed by storm channel bases, pre-assembled asphalts with opened joints, biodegradable dividers and stabilisers of reused plastic moulding blended asphalt into living zones and patios. (123 words)
One Green Mile, Mumbai, India
Transforming neglected spaces below a flyover, One Green Mile becomes a public space for the community. With a strong visual identity, the street design improves mobility and provides more sustainable urban development for underused spaces. Proposing a concept that provides a delightful and all-encompassing urban spatial experience, MVRDV incorporates sinuous blue stripes to create a cohesive visual identity that is used across all of the space’s components. Colours used as visual accents in the materials and graphics make the intervention’s entirety recognisable. Additionally, the space is divided into several public “rooms” that serve various purposes: reading room, performance space, shaded seating area, gym, and lounge. More greenery is also stretched out throughout the space. The design includes greenery in the form of retaining walls, planters, an archway at the entrance, a series of screens that line the space, and screens that cool the spaces around them and reduce noise pollution. (156 words)
Madrid Rio Project, Madrid, Spain
Located in a completely consolidated, intricate urban fabric that runs from north to south through one of the city’s most densely populated areas, the Madrid Rio Project is based on the river’s linear dimensions, which have three aspects that make it a great social catalyst: continuity, contact capacity and transversal connections. The project includes eight sports facilities, 15 playgrounds, 18 miles of bike lanes, two restaurants, six cafes, and two open-air spaces for various events. It is also a green space for leisure activities and strolling. Moreover, its enormous accessibility and capacity to connect previously unconnected green and inhabited areas have made it a very visible element. It has quickly become a valuable asset as a metropolitan condenser due to its capacity to accommodate visitors and residents, transcending the interests of the immediate neighbourhood. (137 words)
Freedom Square, Panevėžys, Lithuania | Street design
Used to be densely populated with commercial functions, Freedom Square is restructured into “smaller islands”, each one with specific functions like playgrounds, planters and several private spaces spread across the site. By removing and flattening pre-existing stairs, the use of curved structures made of corten steel emphasises the benches’ aesthetic appearance. It gives the impression that they are growing from green hills. Encouraging citizens to participate in outdoor activities, the open space successfully provides a modern playful design, lighting and different texture materiality to enhance one’s senses.
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- P, A. (2011) Chongae Canal Restoration Project / Mikyoung Kim Design, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/174242/chongae-canal-restoration-project-mikyoung-kim-design (Accessed: March 15, 2023).
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- Place de la République, Paris: The largest pedestrian space (2021) Topos Magazine. Topos Magazine. Available at: https://toposmagazine.com/largest-pedestrian-space-in-paris/ (Accessed: March 16, 2023).
- Roy, P. (2023) Revitalization of sainte-catherine street west and Phillips Square / provencher_roy, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/997011/revitalization-of-sainte-catherine-street-west-and-phillips-square-provencher-roy?ad_source=search&ad_medium=projects_tab (Accessed: March 14, 2023).
- Valentina, B. (2022) Five Corners Square / WXCA, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/989101/five-corners-square-wxca?ad_source=search&ad_medium=projects_tab (Accessed: March 15, 2023).