Places for People - Environmental settings for urban life
Anne R. Beer,
different groups experience environments in different
In any city, where these days so many people from many different cultures live, it is important to try to distinguish how each group understands their outdoor spaces and what they want from such spaces. For instance, not being stared at is far more important to women from an Islamic culture than to others - but equally for all people when outside, a level of privacy/seclusion is important to be able to enjoy just being in an outdoor space. Of course making secluded spaces has ramifications for safety and how to balance these two needs becomes a design issue needing resolution. Once identified, these special local design issues begin to influence how the design for a specific area develops - so that each space will in time develop its own characteristics. This in turn will add to the diversity of visual experience for those moving around a site - helping to meet the desire of the local inhabitants for a more interesting outside environment.
Factors involved in
Much can be done in the way in which outdoor areas are designed to stimulate users so that they find spaces more interesting.
All landscapes take many decades to develop any level of maturity, so those that exist need enhancing, not eliminating. With maturity comes a sense of permanence and long-term certainty, which is important to communities under stress.
Local inhabitants need to be involved in identifying the visual qualities which they appreciate and those that they consider detract from the local environment (this could be done relatively easily by involving local school children in making their own survey and involving their parents and grandparents). For special interest and to create the missing landmarks, some spaces within any project can be designed by experts so that they have specific visual attributes and become focal points within the area - here the special skills of the landscape designers and environmental artists should be used.
Landmarks - Cognitive
All these are important factors in the redesign of any place, as interpreting any space or landscape in this way can help to identify the design changes that are necessary in the existing landscapes.
of Place - instinctive reactions
The foremost instinctive reaction of the individual to a place is one which identifies it as:
Spaces can allow people to feel a relative sense of:
In describing how people might perceive spaces it is important to recognise that:
People like being fascinated, so they:
search for the new and the different, yet they want these experiences to be within the limits of something known or understood, if they are not to be overwhelmed by uncertainty.
Nature: an important
element in the design of public spaces
update : 5 Nov 2003
Perception of Place
Links and References
Books and papers
Burgess, Jacquelin, Limb, Melanie and Harrison, Carolyn (1988) Exploring environmental values through the medium of small groups. Part One and Part Two, Environment and Planning A, 20.
Cooper Marcus, C. and Francis, C. (eds.) (1997) People Places, Design Guidelines for Urban Open Spaces, John Wiley, New York.
Gehl, J. (1996) Life between buildings: using public space, 3ed edn., Arkitektens Forlag, Skive.
Kaplan, S. (1973) Cognitive maps, human needs and the designed environment. In Environmental Design Research (ed. W.F.E. Preiser), Hutchinson and Ross, Stronsberg, Pa.
Lynch, K. (1960) Image of the City, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Text and illustrations
(unless stated otherwise) © Anne R. Beer, Map21 Ltd,
2001, all rights reserved.
Latest update 12 Dec 2003