What makes public spaces work? What makes them fail? Apparently, someone’s actually trying to get a grip on these questions based on case studies. Project for Public Spaces is a NY-based organisation trying to take the mystery out of creating good urban design (or at least the “places” part of it – which seems to be a large chunk) and publishes examples (Great Places Gallery & Hall of Shame!) and best practice guidelines.
They also defined 4 categories for judging public spaces:
- access & linkages
- comfort & image
- uses & activities
Their self-proclaimed bestseller is “How to Turn a Place Around”, which is $30, but the site already looks like a useful resource in itself.
But pro outfits like the PPS or other planner assessments aren’t the only way to go. Services such as Qype.com have allowed people to rate geographically fixed services like bars and hotels for years. What I didn’t know: they also have a category for landmarks, which includes public parks and also entire streets like Bergmannstrasse in Kreuzberg. These entries are not very conclusive (usually not numerous either), but they’re heading in an interesting direction… expressing opinions on space has become democratic. No longer is the opinion of planners to only one that can be seen.
But you still have to make an effort to express how you feel about a space, and most people aren’t willing to make that effort (understandably). Now for a dystopian tech twist: How about measuring smiles per hour per place with London’s all-over CCTV…?