Places for People - Public greenspace

© Anne R. Beer, 2003

Public greenspace in the built environment

Site planning and design criteria for open spaces in cities

The results of a study of greenspaces in the UK, which was undertaken by the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield, gives an overview of the issues and opportunities relating to present day greenspaces (Dunnet, Swanwick and Woolley, 2002). The reader is also referred to the CABEspace website.

See Wurman et al, Nature of Recreation (1972) for guidance.

These authors suggested that for each recreational activity, for which space needs to be provided and places and facilities have to be designed, we should ask ourselves a series of questions (see list below). The answers to these questions help us to draw up a list of design requirements.

Ask yourself and your clients whether:

  • it is a relatively active or inactive pastime
  • it is an activity which interests certain age groups only or is done by everybody
  • it is an activity which requires a specific space or item of equipment
  • it requires a great deal or a small area of land
  • it happens in one fixed location or involves the use of linear space
  • it requires flat land or slopes of varying degrees
  • it is a very common activity requiring daily doorstep access, an occasional but locally required activity, or
  • it is relatively rare and can be travelled to
  • it requires a track of its own or can use the tracks provided in the city for walking and driving
  • it requires specially constructed facilities such as buildings, shelter, safety equipment on site, or any special amenities
  • it is strongly affected by time, temperature, weather, or unaffected by any of them
  • it benefits from a natural-looking setting or a formal setting, or is unaffected by the type of setting.

When involved in a design project note in particular the design guidance list in Cooper Marcus and Francis,1990, People Places, Design guidelines for urban open space, pp. 69-169.
use these as checklists whenever you are planning or designing urban greenspaces.
See too Chapter 1 which deals with Urban Plazas and shows how to approach the site planning and design of these to meet user needs.

Crime and open spaces

There has been a tendency for parks and natural places to be seen as dangerous places in cities, but there is much more crime on the streets than in parks. For the site planner it is important to ensure that any space in the city is understood by the user to be someone's responsibility. It must either be seen to belong to me and my group or to a specific other person or their group. It is the ambiguous spaces, where no one feels responsible, that people become afraid to enter. As soon as a space, and particularly a group of troublemakers associated with it, inspires fear, then it will not work as a space to support human activities - whatever those activities might be. Click here to see further notes on Safety and Security

The public's perception of the role of open space

The public involved in the discussions saw the role of open space in cities was to make them more livable. When people do not use open spaces it is because they do not know what to do there, as well as the more obvious problem of safety. Once the people involved in this research had been educated into the experiences available in natural areas, they often preferred them to conventional parks. In planning terms what matters is that the full variety of experiences of both the formal and informal environments is available.

 

 Local spaces

Benefits of open spaces

Attitudes

Site planning

 

 

Links and References

Books and papers

Burgess J., Harrison C., and Filius P.,1994, Achieving more sustainable neighbourhoods. In Proceedings of the ECE Dordrecht Workshop on Sustainable Urban Development, DUP, Delft, Netherlands.

Cooper Marcus, C. and Francis, C. (1990) People Places, Design guidelines for urban open space, 69-169.
Note in particular the design guidance list and use these as checklists whenever you are planning or designing urban greenspaces. See also Chapter 1 which deals with Urban Plazas and shows how to approach the site planning and design of these to meet user needs.

Dunnett, N., Swanwick, C. & Woolley, H. (2002) Improving Park, Play Areas and Green Spaces, ODPM ISBN: 1851125760.

Wurman et al (1972) The Nature of Recreation - a useful beginners guide.

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Text and illustrations (unless stated otherwise) © Anne R. Beer, Map21 Ltd, 2001, all rights reserved.
Terms of use: Any involved in education or training may copy the contents of these web pages with the proviso that they always make reference to the origial copyright.

© Anne Beer, 2000
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Map21 Ltd

Latest update 19 Dec 2003