Places for People - Residential areas

© Anne Beer, 2003

Outdoor places in residential areas

User Zones - developing site planning and design guidelines

A way to link information about user needs to places


Guidelines have been drawn up to describe the range of user activities which are likely to need support within each type of User Zone and then describe the environmental characteristics ('quality of experience descriptions') required within these zones if people are to be attracted to make better use of greenspaces.

These guidelines aim to allow local populations to consider and discuss what is possible for their 'Block' or 'Community' in adjacent and nearby external spaces. They are designed to act as a basis from which the community itself develops its own Activity and Experiential Lists, so setting up its own performance standards by modifying the suggested guidelines to suit their own specific needs.

The process to arrive at guidelines for each User Zone is as follows:

Step One - Making Activity lists for each of the Different User Zones

In the Overvecht study four major Greenspace User Zones are identified:

  • the Doorstep Zone
  • the nearby green (greenspaces within 100 to 400m of the front door of the home)
  • the District greenspaces (the parks and green corridors)
  • the surrounding greenspaces - the River Vecht to the south-west, the Polders to the north-east, the sports field and Volktuinen to the north-east and a "Fort" Corridor Route linking the remains of the old forts.

The Activity Lists used here (see Potential Section of this website) derive from:

  • the data on the user needs of many different user groups collated by the District Office from a wide range of interactions with local community groups and individuals within Overvecht which were undertaken over an 18 month period
  • studies about what people at different stages of the life cycle want to be able to do - next to, near and within walking distance of their homes

The vast amount of information about the variations in age groups, employment groups, ethnic groups and lifestyle groups within the different housing areas which comprise the Overvecht District, makes it possible to make a first attempt to draw up such Activity Lists without undertaking further survey work. However, as the greenspace improvement project unrolls across Overvecht, it will be important to work with each specific community group - the people living in each group will modify these lists to meet their specific needs and wishes. The lists should be seen, therefore, only as a starting point for community level decision making. It is, however, usually easier for community groups to react either favourably or unfavourably to ideas which describe something concrete, than to be specific when asked by a survey "what do you want" - in general people can only want what they know. If they have never experienced something it is hard to react.


Step 2 - Describe the range of settings needed for the different activities in each of the Different User Zones

Once an Activity List has been established, the next stage is to consider the environmental qualities (the experiential aspects) that might be needed to support the uses envisaged for each User Zone of the site. For instance: what are the spatial qualities which allow people to feel safe and secure in their Doorstep Spaces, in the Near-by-Green, in the Parkland and major Play and Sports Areas and as they move through their local greenspaces along the Green Corridors?

Performance standards

These are necessary as a means to ensure user requirements can be met. It has already been stated that the detailed analysis of user requirements is basic to site planning. The solutions developed by the site planning team from this analysis can then be evaluated by the user: the user can judge the extent to which the solutions satisfy their environmental needs. Drawing up performance standards for each activity and for the spaces in which they occur is the bridge between these two situations. Wurman et al (1972) have introduced a very straightforward means of describing environmental performance based on a method designed for use with local communities. See also Clare Cooper Marcus (1997), People Places. This was specifically designed to help the community to reach conclusions about the environments they wanted locally to support their activities.

Wurman et al (1972) describe how it is possible to think of each activity independently and decide what is required to enable it to happen.

External areas

High density housing

A change of approach

User zones

The doorstep

User reactions

Design approach

The home

The garden



See also the information on Designing for Children's Play in Housing Areas

Designing for the
ess able bodied

Links and References

Books and papers

Coleman, A. (1986) Utopia on Trial, Hilary Shipman, London.

Cooper Marcus, C. and Sarkissian, W. (1986) Housing as if people mattered

Cooper Marcus, C. and Francis, C. (eds.) (1997) People Places: Design Guidelines for Urban Open Spaces, John Wiley, New York.

Findlay, A. et al. (1989) , Whose quality of life, The Planner, 75, no.15.

Kaplan, S. (1982) Attention and fascination: the search for cognitive clarity, In Humanscape: Environments for People (eds. S. and R. Kaplan), Ulrich's Books, Ann Arbor, Miichigan.

Newman, O. (1972) Defensible Space, Macmillan, New York.

Wurman, R.S., Levy, A.and Katz, J. (1972) The Nature of Recreation, London MIT Ress for the American Federation of Arts and Group for Environmental Education, Cambridge, Mass.

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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 original copyright.

© Anne Beer, 2000
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Map21 Ltd

Latest update 13 Dec 2003